UKCMRI and other news

In Manchester at the Lowry Centre today for the NHS R&D Forum conference.

I have fond memories of Manchester having spent some of my childhood growing up near Wilmslow.  Indeed, it was on a hot sunny day such as this that I remember myself and umpteen other seven year olds sitting on a gym mat listening to the recording our teacher had made of birds in her garden.  Much merriment there was when the tape picked up the sound of a BAC 1-11 (a very loud jet) for a full five minutes to the complete obliteration of any birdsong.

You could say the same about the recession and deficit reduction…which seems to have drowned out all else in terms of debate and discussion. 

So it was good to attend an event where there was a real buzz among the delegates and a sense of sobre optimism about the future.  I was impressed by Chris Brimsmead’s (President, ABPI) level-headed stock-take of where things stands in health research and his encouragement to us all continue to push behind initiatives to improve innovation in the NHS – ‘fragile saplings’ I think he called them.

This is the second year I have spoken to the Forum (yes, I couldn’t believe they asked me again either!) and I wish them well as they morph into their new guise as a ‘membership’ body.

Back in London Osborne and Laws (which sounds like a law firm) were announcing the first tranche of public expenditure cuts.  The announcement on savings from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills can be found here.

Good to see the Government decision to back the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (particularly since some had suggested it was in the line of fire last week) and I thought you might like to read the reaction from various science leaders:

UKCMRI response to Treasury spending cuts – 24 May 2010

 We welcome the Government’s statement of support for the UKCMRI project. 

 The Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and UCL (University College London) have been working extremely closely to deliver the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI). It will be a world-leading biomedical research institute at the heart of an exceptional cluster of medical research and academic institutions in north London.

The founders have already invested more than £100m and will continue to invest confident that the required funding will be provided by the Government on a phased basis over the next five years.

The Government’s commitment to providing its share of funds will help the founders develop this unique project. It will keep the UK at the forefront of research, strengthen the UK economy and help to deliver the discoveries that will transform people’s lives.

Sir David Cooksey, chairman of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation said: “We welcome the Government’s support for UKCMRI. The review sees the Government’s share of funding confirmed but delivered in a different way.  It’s clear that the commitment to UKCMRI’s success remains. UKCMRI is a unique, long-term project that will enhance Britain’s position at the leading edge of biomedical research.  It will bring together and train the best scientists to examine the causes of some of the most intractable diseases facing the world.  UKCMRI will bring benefits to patients, to the NHS and to the UK economy.  The Government’s commitment to the project reflects the importance of UKCMRI for science in the UK and globally.”

The Government has made clear that it is committed to the project and it remains the top priority for the Medical Research Council.  There will be no effect on the scope of the project nor its ambition.

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council said: “The Medical Research Council understands the need for budget savings in the current economic climate. We are satisfied that the Government is fully committed to UKCMRI and to the £250m announced in March. £17m is still being provided to the project to cover costs actually incurred this financial year. We do not expect that the decision to phase funding will impact the scope of the project or change to the Government’s existing or future commitment to UKCMRI.

“UKCMRI is a key priority for the Medical Research Council and also Research Councils UK (RCUK). As a world class centre for interdisciplinary medical research, UKCMRI will bring together the brightest scientific minds to tackle the major health challenges of the 21st century.”

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We’re really pleased the new government is behind this important project. The money committed to UKCMRI will help accelerate our goal to beat cancer.  UKCMRI will be one of the most significant medical research projects anywhere in the world over the next 20 years, and we’re very excited to be a part of it. This collaboration will generate cutting-edge science and push forward the boundaries of innovation. But for the biggest impact we should look to those patients in the future, including those with cancer, who will be diagnosed, treated and cured using breakthroughs that will be made in this new institute.”

Sir Mark Walport, Director, the Wellcome Trust added: “I am very pleased that the new Government has confirmed its support for the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation, UKCMRI.  The MRC, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and UCL (University College London) are working in close partnership to create UKCMRI. This will be a globally leading institute for medical research and will be key to maintaining the UK at the forefront of biomedical research. UKCMRI will be important for the health of the population and for the economy of the UK – a strong pharmaceutical sector depends on a strong biomedical research base. We note that the agreed funding from Government of £250 million should flow to support the construction of UKCMRI according to cash flow requirements.  It is essential that there are no delays to the programme introduced by this change to the funding plan.  Lengthening the time for implementation of a capital programme is a guaranteed way to increase its costs.  The Wellcome Trust has participated over the past 10 years in jointly funded partnerships with Government amounting to nearly £1.5 billion. The ability of the Wellcome Trust to be a major funder of first class research in the UK depends on the stability and quality of this partnership.”

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