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UKCMRI Seeks Candidates for First Director and Chief Executive

This report was originally published May 14, and updated May 18 to include additional information from the UKCMRI.

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The planned UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation has begun soliciting resumes for its first director and chief executive who would be "responsible for all aspects of its operations" — a sign that the controversial project continues to move forward following the UK's recent change of government.

An advertisement posted in Nature seeks candidates for the position who "must be internationally renowned biomedical scientists capable of leading a complex research organisation."

Candidates for director and chief executive "should be willing and able to commit themselves in principle to two terms of five years beginning in 2011," according to the ad, which was dated May 12 — the day after Conservative Party leader David Cameron took office as prime minister by forming a coalition government that includes members of the Liberal Democrat party led by Nick Clegg, who is now deputy prime minister.

Cameron succeeds the Labor Party's Gordon Brown, who during his unsuccessful re-election campaign in March re-stated the UK government's commitment to funding half the UKCMRI's projected £500 million ($731 million) cost. Brown envisioned the funding would be delivered by the Medical Research Council from the UK's Department for Business Innovation & Skills, subject to an approval that had been expected later this year.

On Thursday, Cameron named Vince Cable, previously a Liberal Democrat member of Parliament, as the new director of BIS.

"Funding was committed to the Medical Research Council for this financial year subject to a successful business case. We have had no indication that the new coalition government has different views on funding for UKCMRI," John Davidson, a spokesman for UKCMRI, told GenomeWeb Daily News on May 18. "And we need to press on with developing the work of the institute – including appointing the new director and chief executive whose vision will be key."

UKCMRI currently is led by Interim Chief Executive John Cooper, who is also the center's chief operating officer.

Cooper is not under consideration for the permanent director and chief executive position. After that position is filled, he will remain with the center as COO.

"We are looking for a scientist," Davidson said.

According to the job posting, candidates must have an "outstanding" personal record of scientific achievement; a current active involvement in research of "internationally outstanding quality;" several years' successful experience of running a "major, internationally renowned" research organization; strong leadership and management skills; "good" communications skills; and an inclusive, outward-looking style.

"Experience of creating a new research organisation and of leading major construction and/or change projects would be a great advantage," the job posting added.

The ad did not offer details on the position's salary, except to say that "the salary and terms of employment will be commensurate with the requirement to recruit one of the world's foremost scientific leaders for this exciting post."

Prospective candidates were asked to email their resumes and cover letters to [email protected] no later than June 7. UKCMRI said it will ask 'selected candidates" to be interviewed in London in late June.

"We anticipate it won't take long" to fill the position following the round of interviews, Davidson said.

UKCMRI is a partnership of Cancer Research UK, the kingdom's largest cancer research funding organization, as well as the Medical Research Council, University College London, and the Wellcome Trust. UKCMRI plans to develop a roughly £500 million building, in the shape of a pair of chromosomes, near the St. Pancras International rail station.

The planned institute would employ up to 1,500 researchers, and is set to become operational in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

UKCMRI has drawn opposition from many residents living near the proposed site and others, because it would test on smaller animals and would include a high category 3 lab, allowing for study of some infectious diseases, such as flu viruses. Opponents have also said that the proposed institute would be too close to homes near the project site, and that officials should instead stick to earlier plans for creating below-market "affordable" housing on the site.

UKCMRI has said it would employ genomic technologies in the array of research its partners plan to pursue there, and officials are counting on the institute to help make Britain a global destination for top life sciences researchers.

"The institute will play a vital part in discovery and developing a new understanding of illnesses which affect all families, such as cancers, heart disease and stroke, flu and other infections safeguarding the health of generations to come," Davidson said.

He added: "It will play a vital role in the regeneration of a very deprived part of London and be a major boost for Camden's, London's and the UK's economy."

Davidson said UKCMRI will soon submit a formal planning application to Camden Borough Council, which will decide if construction can go ahead.

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