New Name for U.K. Biolab As Report Revives Site Debate

Odds are, people will just call it the Crick.

Officials at the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI), a mammoth biomedical lab facility scheduled to open in central London in 2015, have apparently heard the complaints about their unwieldy name and acronym. They've just announced that in July the facility will officially become the Francis Crick Institute to honor the British Nobel laureate who co-discovered the structure of DNA. The name change coincides with a new report that endorses the scientific vision of the facility, but also revives a debate about its location. Issued by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the report questions whether the benefits of the downtown site, such as good transport links and access to universities and hospitals, were worth the added expense and limitations of the location.

The panel concluded:

In our view the case for a central London location was not overwhelming and the UKCMRI could have been sited elsewhere.

Construction of the Centre is now beginning-and the decision cannot be reversed-but it is essential that the UKCMRI develop plans and put in place measures to ensure that those outside the South-East are part of the project and obtain maximum benefit.

The review of the UKCMRI comes as the project is about to begin construction on the building that will house more than 1000 researchers and staff members. Many of them will come from the famed National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mills Hill, just outside London, which will then be closed. It was the debate over whether to relocate NIMR to central London or rejuvenate its facilities that, after much acrimony, eventually led to the unusual partnership that created UKCRMI. The Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, CancerResearchUK, and several London universities are all contributing funds—estimates are now over $1 billion—to the project now.

Beyond the issue of location, the members of parliament found little to complain about during their review of UKCRMI. They noted that the project has an "experienced management team with a proven track record" and that the U.K. government had given promises that UKCRMI's partners, not the British taxpayers, were liable for any cost overruns.