One of the United Kingdom's top biomedical centers will have to abandon its green, suburban campus outside London and squeeze into a new site in the city's center, according to a decision by a government funding agency. The National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), currently located on a 47-acre site in suburban Mill Hill, will relocate to University College London (UCL). Researchers at the institute have battled such a move for over a year.
The relocation represents a "unanimous decision" by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the government funding agency which funds the center, according to an MRC statement on 11 February. The MRC chiefs had long argued that the suburban institute should sit alongside a central medical school and hospital to advance "translational research" (Science, 4 February, p. 652).
Scientists at NIMR, which has a staff of more than 700, had resisted the planned move. Their concerns included cuts in staff due to the costs of relocation, smaller animal facilities, and a loss of the institute's independence.
Malcolm Grant, president and Provost of UCL, immediately set out to reassure the scientists, noting that the university already has strong collaborations with them. But there are still "a number of hurdles to be cleared" before the relocation can occur, Grant concedes. The project must win a large amount of government funding and be approved for extensive renovation of buildings in the city. Grant also fears UCL may not be able to duplicate one of the unique advantages the institute now enjoys—a category 4 biosafety research lab.