Government announces medical research review in bid to cut red tape

Independent look at regulation is needed to bring greater coordination and ‘freedom from unnecessary bureaucracy’, Zoë Corbyn reports

March 26, 2010

A review of medical research is to be conducted by the Academy of Medical Sciences on behalf of the government amid concern over the negative impact of red tape.

Andy Burnham, the secretary of state for health, announced the independent review of the sector’s regulation and governance on 25 March. It was also revealed that the prime minister is considering appointing a minister for life sciences in the next Parliament.

The announcements coincided with the news that the Medical Research Council has moved a step closer to securing funding for the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation, a new super-lab being built in St Pancras in London.

If the business case is approved later this year, the project will be allocated £250 million in funding, which will be in addition to the £47 million that the MRC has already spent on the site.

The review of medical research follows the publication of a report from the academy earlier this week entitled “Reaping the rewards: A vision for UK medical science”.

It warns that the current regulatory environment, including requirements for clinical trial, is driving medical science abroad, and it argues that publicly funded health research needs further coordination.

Mr Burnham said it was becoming “increasingly clear” that medical research is being stifled by red tape.

“For research to flourish and provide the huge benefit it can give to the health and wealth of the country, it needs freedom from unnecessary bureaucracy and interference,” he said.

The review raises once again the question of whether the research functions of the Department of Health should be brought closer to the Medical Research Council.

The Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research, which was set up in 2006 to coordinate the research functions of both bodies, is chaired by John Bell, who is also president of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

A report on bioengineering by MPs on the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee was also published on 25 March. It argues that the UK is struggling to translate its research base in bioengineering into health and wealth.

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