Francis Crick Institute looks to turn discoveries into treatments

Commercialisation is one of the top priorities for researchers as they settle into their labs at the Francis Crick Institute, London’s new £650m biomedical science centre.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, the institute’s leaders — founding chief executive Paul Nurse and newly appointed chairman John Browne — emphasised their determination to speed up the “translation” of discoveries made in the laboratory into disease treatments backed by industry.

“We are a discovery institute very open to translation,” Sir Paul said. “When discoveries look as if they can be applied usefully to drive the economy and to benefit humankind more generally, I’m trying to put in place mechanisms to allow that to occur easily.”

The Crick, which was built next to the British Library and St Pancras Station in central London, replaces three mid-20th century research institutes that were operated by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK at sites around the capital.

The new institute is the result of a partnership including the MRC, CRUK, the Wellcome Trust and three universities: UCL, King’s College London and Imperial College. The Crick receives £117m a year in core funding from the MRC, CRUK and Wellcome, and its work covers a broad sweep of bioscience, with potential applications for conditions from cancer and heart disease to neurodegeneration and infertility.

Tthe Francis Crick Institute building in central London © AFP

Scientists and their equipment began moving into the Crick late last year, but Sir Paul said the organisation “really moved in this January”.

“It is by no means optimal yet and John’s arrival is going to help us make it optimal,” he added, referring to Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP who took over from the venture capitalist David Cooksey as chairman of the Crick’s board last month.

For many years, governments and universities have encouraged commercialisation of research, usually…

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