UKCMRI

From the Imperial College London website this afternoon announcing they are joining the Francis Crick Institute partnership.

Call me an old softie but I was rather touched by the recounting of the time capsule story.

I’m only down the road in Camden, I wonder if Ovarian Cancer Action could apply to become the next partner?

If you are wondering like me if this new feature of the London science landscape will have a public engagement aspect to its work then I checked this evening that it will be one of the Institute’s objectives. It would be great if someone who is working on the project would post something here and tell us more.

I pass the site of the new Francis Crick Institute – formerly known as UKCMRI – every day on my way to work.  Here’s a photo of it that I took yesterday evening.  Not the best photo I admit but it was rather windy and I had my hands full. 

I’ll try and remember to take photos on a regular basis so you can see progress.  The orange building in the left-background is, of course, the British Library.  Behind the camera is St Pancras International Station.

So the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee has this morning published its latest report about the building of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) in London.  THES has a report here.

The Committee seems rather oddly to have raked over old coals in its questioning of whether London is the most appropriate place and asks that UKCMRI make every effort to work with colleagues across the UK so that opportunities are not lost.  I say ‘oddly’ because I always thought this was in UKCMRI’s job specification anyway. 

It also asks for a reconsideration of the issue of social housing near the site.

I didn’t know this but I understand that the building is going to be named after Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA,

The NHS Future Forum – the recently announced exercise by the Department of Health to get the NHS reforms back on track – has today published a list of its members.  Further names are likely to be added it seems.  It includes a few ‘researchy’ people as we tend to call them here in the office – a useful tag which can extend from Nobel prize winner to a participant in a clinical trial.

Imperial and UCL – which are both full of researchy type people – have both been announced this week as new partners in the UK Clinical Medical Research Institute (UKCMRI) enterprise to be built in London.  The press release is here and, actually, there’s also a rather interesting item about the archeological dig taking place on the site which used to be home to a railway goods yard.

I loved this article from the Belfast Newsletter about a new initiative by the Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Centre (NICTC), formerly known as the Northern Ireland Cancer Clinical Trials Unit to recruit cancer patients and carers to join the Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumer Forum and infuence research there.

While I am at it, I thought I might also mention Alice Bell’s rather useful (which is much better than simply being ‘interesting’) article about public engagement.  Lots of common sense in here, and if you are about to embark on a public engagement exercise then I fully commend her advice to you as your starting point.

If you are heading north over Easter on your natural break then you may wish to go to one of the many Edinburgh Science Festival Events taking place until 22nd April.  I spoke there once and have never been asked back again!

And on the train journey – or even if you are stuck at home – you might consider entering the Wellcome Trust/Guardian/Observer science writing prize – closing date is 20th May 2011.  That’s if you are researchy minded of course.

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.

If you are looking for the detail of today’s announcement by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on the science budget allocations for the spending review period then please look at the excellent summary by our policy and public affairs manager, Becky Purvis, here.

Further perspective from me in due course.  But, given Breast Cancer Campaign’s letter on CRSF last week and our ongoing campaign on this issue, I am very pleased about the Government’s guideline to HEFCE that they allocate research funding to universities with the aim of protecting funding from external sources including that from medical research charities.  We’ll know more in the New Year.

Those who visit this blog regularly will know that we’ve been following progress with the plans to build the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation in London ever since our first post.  So, in what feels like an early Christmas present for science, it is good to be able to report that yesterday Camden Town Hall councillors gave their go-ahead to the project. 

 The Wellcome Trust has a straightforward press notice on it (they are one of four partners involved, the others being Cancer Research UK, UCL and the Medical Research Council) but I can highly recommend the UKCMRI website as well where you can get a better idea of what the centre will look like and what it will do.  Let’s hope the new centre will be snowproof unlike the rest of London.

In other news this week..this hasn’t been picked-up very widely but the Prime Minister’s Office announced the membership of the re-constituted Council for Science and Technology which was set-up in the early nineties (and re-launched in 2007) to advise the PM on cross-cutting issues of strategic importance.  The Council is also advertising for ten independent members.

Thw word is that Monday looks like the day when the Government will announce the science budget allocations…and I also hope that we can publish our independent report of the AMRC/INVOLVE patient workshop on research regulation.