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National Institute for Medical Research

The National Institute For Medical Research, commonly abbreviated to NIMR, is a large medical research facility situated in rural Mill Hill, England, on the outskirts of London. It is mainly funded by the Medical Research Council, or MRC, and is its largest establishment and the only one designated as an 'Institute'. The MRC has published plans to move the institute to a new site in central London, in 2012.



The National Institute For Medical Research specialises in four main research areas;

There are 18 divisions, over 200 scientists and at least 200 other trained personnel, including postgraduate students. The NIMR's annual research budget is £25 million.



The Medical Research Council, founded in 1913, was immediately charged with establishing a central research institute in London. Later that year, premises at Hampstead were acquired and the National Institute for Medical Research was founded.

However, the outbreak of World War I soon after postponed occupation of the building, although senior staff were appointed and began work. By 1920 the Institute at Mount Vernon Hospital was fully operational and remained so for 30 years until the move to its current location at Mill Hill. The original Institute, under the directorship of Sir Henry Dale, comprised of three divisions:

Dale oversaw a period of considerable success at NIMR, including the discovery of the human influenza virus in 1933 and the discovery of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, for which Dale himself received the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Moving to Mill Hill

In the 1930s the decision was made to move the Institute to new premises. An imposing building at Mill Hill was designed by Maxwell Ayrton, also the architect of the original Wembley Stadium, and construction began in 1937. Once again, occupation was delayed when war broke out in 1939 and the building was given to the Women's Royal Naval Service. The building was returned to the MRC in autumn 1949 but Sir Henry Dale had retired in 1942 and so was never director on the new site, that job falling to his successor Sir Charles Harington.

The official opening ceremony took place on the 5 May, 1950, with their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II present. Harington expanded the research programme into ten divisions during his 20 year tenure and guided researchers at the Institute to, amongst other achievements, the development of gas chromatography and the discovery of interferon.

In 1962, Nobel Prize winner Sir Peter Medawar became director and, consistent with his research interests, established NIMR as a major centre for immunological research. Following an illness, Medawar retired as director in 1971 to be replaced by Sir Arnold Burgen. Burgan had an interest in nuclear magnetic resonance techniques and formed the MRC Biomedical NMR Centre at the Institute in 1980. Sir Dai Rees became director in 1982 to be replaced by Sir John Skehel in 1987. Since then NIMR has continued to excel scientifically reporting, perhaps most famously, the discovery of the sex determining gene SRY, in 1991.

Towards the future

In 2003, as part of their Forward Investment Strategy, the MRC announced plans to consider moving NIMR from its current location to a university/medical school site, to enhance its ability "to translate its biomedical research into practical health outcomes." [1] [2] University College London was selected as a preferred partner institution, and a nearby site in central London was acquired. [3] Some staff at the NIMR, including Robin Lovell-Badge and John Skehel, expressed opposition to a move. In response to accusations of "coercion" during the review process, a House of Commons select committee investigation criticised both the MRC for losing the confidence of NIMR workers, and unnamed NIMR staff for "undermining [Colin] Blakemore's position as MRC chief executive." [4][5]

In September 2006, Sir John Skehel retired as NIMR director [6] and Sir Keith Peters became acting director [7] until the future structure of the new institute could be finalised. In July of that year the MRC announced that Scott Fraser of the California Institute of Technology had been invited to take over the directorship. [8] According to Blakemore, negotiations were ongoing as of December 2006 [9]

Though the financial package from HM Treasury is not yet formalised, the construction of the new NIMR facility is scheduled to begin in 2009 and the relocation from Mill Hill is scheduled for 2012. [10]

Mill Hill Essays

A yearly collection of essays are produced by guest authors and staff at the Institute, under the title Mill Hill Essays. They are written to be accessible and informative to the lay reader.

Animal testing

Some scientists at NIMR perform research on animals. Because of this, and the perception that the Institute is the MRC's flagship facility, there are weekly protests by members of animal rights groups outside the building. These protests usually take place on a Wednesday evening.



  • The rooms and other locations in the building was used in the film Batman Begins, for the Arkham Asylum scenes.[11]

External links

  • The NIMR Website
  • Mill Hill Essays
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "National_Institute_for_Medical_Research". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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