Good news on medical research regulation

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, paid a visit to the Wellcome Trust this morning and announced a clutch of initiatives including:

  • £250 million investment in 2010/11 for the new world-class medical research centre at St Pancras in London which will bring together research teams to tackle major medical challenges. The new UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation will be a partnership with Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, UCL and the Medical Research Council (MRC) and will work closely with the NHS.
  • The appointment, in the next parliament, of the first ever Minister for Life Sciences to report to both the Secretaries of State for Business and Health – should the Labour Party form for the next Government.
  • A doctoral scholarship scheme – Newton Scholarships – to provide support for around 100 of the world’s best research students annually and to sustain the UK’s excellence in research capability.

But medical research charities will be particularly pleased to hear that the Government has set-up an independent review of the regulatory environment for medical and health research stating:

‘Following concern that the process of medical research is being jeopardised by a complex legal and regulatory framework, the Government also today announced an independent review of it. The framework is having a negative impact on the health and wealth of the country. It is affecting both the UK’s competitiveness as a site for industry-funded research and the speed with which advances in basic science can be turned into benefits for patients.

The Government has therefore asked the Academy of Medical Sciences to conduct a rapid independent review of the regulation and governance of medical research. This will be chaired by Sir Michael Rawlins in his capacity as a senior fellow. In view of the particular problems for clinical trials, the review will have a specific focus in this area.’

The problems associated with regulation and bureaucracy have been a regular feature of my posts on this blog and a review sounds like a sensible next step to developing a better regulatory environment.  Some people may remember that it was the Academy’s report into clinical research six years or so ago that led to the establishment of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, a better infrastructure for clinical trials etc. 

The terms of reference for the review can be found on the Academy’s website.

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