So the UKCMRI partners were in front of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee yesterday as were representatives of the local community. Meanwhile the Science Minister, David Willetts, announced that the Government had agreed the business plan for the new centre as put forward by the Medical Research Council (MRC). A good day all in all for the Centre and its supporters.
Interestingly UKCMRI is mentioned in two diagnostic articles looking back at last week’s announcement by Pfizer. The first is by Andrew Jack in the Financial Times. The second is by Colin Macilwein in NatureNews. Each piece has a different accent with the latter taking a slightly more critical stance as regards the relationship between Government and pharma. But there are also themes common to both around the need to reduce regulation and for better data sharing by companies.
I suppose Pfizer’s Sandwich plant and UKCMRI are both of their time and I thought David Cooksey’s (Chair, UKCMRI) take on how UKCMRI will differ from what has gone before in the way it will cluster capabilities and knowledge was quite helpful to understanding why UKCMRI is so important to UK science.
There was a lot of talk about the science ‘ecosystem’ at the time of the Spending Review and the need for the Government to avoid breaking it by not thinking through the consequences of its actions. That’s the real issue about Pfizer and Sandwich, that together with other pharma cuts over the last few years, the UK has lost a significant amount of its pharma R&D capacity and capability with major knock-on effects for all including medical research charities.
Against that background, initiatives such as UKCMRI take on even greater importance but the Government needs to think more strategically if we are to better manage the ecosystem going forward. A TaskForce in Sandwich is important to managing the impact on the local community but we could do with a national Task Force as well. One can only load so much onto UKCMRI.
And..finally from the sector…my congratulations to Alzheimer’s Research Trust who changed their name to Alzheimer’s Research UK yesterday and have a new website to boot.