'After california, I had a different perspective on business activity'

December 15, 2006

John Bell has been appointed to run the newly formed Office for Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research

The appointment of John Bell, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences and regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, to run the newly formed Office for Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research came as no surprise last week.

Professor Bell is the sort of entrepreneurial academic well-liked by the Chancellor. He came from Canada to undertake his medical training in Oxford and London before he headed to Stanford University to become a clinical fellow of immunology just as molecular biology was taking off.

He has described Stanford's refusal to get involved in start-ups as a "terrible mistake", but he watched it make millions from licensing agreements.

Returning to Oxford in 1987, he found a "thriving and flourishing environment, but with scepticism about academics coming close to commercial activity. After California, I had a different perspective."

Professor Bell is co-founder of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, and he has a strong research record in genetics and genomics. He is also chair of the UK Biobank Science Committee and founding director of three biotechnology start-up companies.

In his new role, he will be responsible for co-ordinating the work of the National Institute for Health Research and the Medical Research Council. He is in a strong position to do this. In 2004 he chaired the Academy of Medical Sciences working group responsible for the publication of Strengthening Clincial Research , which called for a greater focus on translating discoveries and technologies into healthcare treatments.

Professor Bell will also co-ordinate health research spending to ensure that it better benefits patients.

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