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Medical Research Council appoints new head

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39356.615995.DB (Published 04 October 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:688
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Abergavenny

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, who was knighted for his research into developing vaccines, is the new chief executive of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC).

The deputy rector of Imperial College, London, is to take over from the current holder, Colin Blakemore, whose term of office finishes at the end of this month.

“I'm excited by the chance to work across the whole spectrum of biomedical science and to help to make a difference in relation to healthcare for individuals in the UK and globally,” said Professor Borysiewicz.

He joined Imperial College London in 2001 as principal of the faculty of medicine before becoming deputy rector three years later. His research interests are in viral immunology, infectious diseases, cell mediated immunity, virus associated malignancy, and vaccine development. He was knighted in 2001 for his research into developing vaccines, including one to stop the development of cervical cancer.

He holds a number of appointments in higher education and science and was recently made a governor of the Wellcome Trust. He is also the chairman of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration's integrated academic training committee and chairman of the joint scientific advisory board of the MRC and the UK Stem Cell Foundation. He is a founder fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Sir Leszek's appointment comes in the wake of Sir David Cooksey's recommendation last year of a single strategy for health research in the UK and the formation of an Office for the Strategic Coordination of Health Research (OSCHR) to oversee this strategy.

“What the Cooksey report has done is to open the door on a plethora of opportunity that exists. It's not just an opportunity on the translation side, people forget that Sir David's review also very firmly identified the need to maintain the basic research agenda as the seed corn from which all future proposals are going to flourish.”

He added, “We have a lot of work to do with the Department of Health's National Institute for Health Research to build up the applicability of discovery into changes both in clinical practice and in drugs or other health interventions.”

Sir Leszek studied medicine at the Welsh National School of Medicine and took his first consultant's post at Hammersmith Hospital, London. He has had a long association with the MRC. Early in his career he completed an MRC Clinical Training Fellowship, and between 1995 and 2000 he chaired the MRC Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board and served on the MRC Council. He has also been a trustee of Cancer Research UK, and served on numerous committees, including for the MRC, the World Health Organization, the British Council, the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, and the UK Stem Cell Foundation.

The MRC, which has a research budget of about £0.5bn (€0.7bn; $1bn), supports research throughout biomedicine, from fundamental laboratory based science to clinical trials. About 3300 researchers are supported by programmes funded by the MRC in universities and hospitals, and the organisation employs more than 3300 people in the United Kingdom and abroad, in 29 research units and three research institutes.

The latest figures show that the MRC spends more than £224m a year on supporting research and training in universities and teaching hospitals and nearly £238m in its own institutions.

It is the UK's largest non-commercial funder of clinical trials. It pioneered randomised controlled trials and sponsored the world's first controlled, multicentre clinical trial in 1944.

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