Bringing together bench and bedside is the purpose of a new institute that aims to become a world-class "translational" cancer research centre, where the knowledge gained from basic research is translated into clinical applications. Among participants in the official inauguration of the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre in Cambridge, UK, on 18 May was Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Minister for Science and Innovation. He commented that the centre "offers unprecedented opportunities" to create bridges between different approaches in cancer research, in order to make a real impact on patients' lives.
The new institute's major goal is to create a collaborative environment where scientists doing basic research and clinicians can work closely together. "The Hutchison/MRC Research Centre was founded on a spirit of collaboration at many levels," explained Ron Laskey, co-director of the centre and director of the MRC Cancer Cell Unit. It is the result of a partnership between Cancer Research UK, the University of Cambridge, and the Medical Research Council (MRC). Its two components, the new MRC Cancer Cell Unit and programmes of the University of Cambridge Cancer Research UK Department of Oncology, have developed complementary approaches; their common objective is transforming research at the bench into prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
Half the construction costs of the new £10 million building have been met by the MRC. The remainder came from Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Limited, an international conglomerate involved in diverse businesses (port services, telecommunications, and energy, for example) and its philanthropist chairman, Sir Ka-shing Li, who officially opened the building. Thanking the funders, Bruce Ponder, co-director of the centre and head of the Cancer Research UK Department of Oncology, promised to use the resources "as effectively as we can".
The building was completed and the first research groups moved in a year ago. Now that all of the facilities are in place, a total of 120 scientists are in residence, working in 14 groups. Research fields are diverse, including basic research on cell proliferation, analysis of tumour cells and tissues to detect gene mutations, and identification of potential therapeutic targets in cancer. The group leaders appointed at the centre so far include both molecular and cellular biologists and clinicians--many of them regularly see patients in addition to their work in the laboratory.
With space in total for approximately 140 researchers on four floors, the centre is big enough to create a vibrant atmosphere. Here, sharing of communal facilities and laboratory space is an important aspect of breaking down barriers.
The centre also benefits from its strategic location: adjacent to one of East Anglia?s major hospitals, Addenbrooke?s, and to other MRC institutes (including the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, home of 10 Nobel laureates). There are also collaborations with the University of Cambridge and its academic departments.
Recruitment at the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre is ongoing, "including a small number of openings left for group leaders," according to Laskey. "Recruitment of postdocs and students is conducted at the level of individual research groups," he explains, so those interested in such positions should contact directly the group leader with whom they would like to work.
The centre is now preparing its next important event: its inaugural symposium in October, with speakers invited from all over the world.