In the news: Mike Dexter

April 19, 2002

Mike Dexter has turned down a two-year extension as director of the Wellcome Trust, and he will step down at the end of his five-year appointment next March.

His directorship has been a busy time for the trust. Its spending more than doubled, and it became the world's richest charity. Dr Dexter oversaw the United Kingdom's part in sequencing the human genome and launched Wellcome's first corporate plan, involving spending £3 billion over the next five years.

He has been tireless in taking the government to task over its science policy. The Wellcome Trust now spends almost twice as much on UK biomedical research as the Medical Research Council, whose budget this year was £350 million.

The £1.75 billion that is spent on laboratories from the Joint Infrastructure Fund and the Science Research Investment Fund came about only after Dr Dexter approached the Treasury. Even before the money was allocated, Dr Dexter had attacked the government for ignoring the everyday running costs of laboratories. Despite the JIF and the SRIF being oversubscribed four times, Dr Dexter insisted that the Wellcome Trust had done its bit, pouring in £525 million.

Dr Dexter left school with a geology A level and became a lab technician at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester. He was inspired to take A levels at night school and went to Salford University to read physiology and zoology. His 30-year research career at the Paterson led him eventually to become director. An expert in stem-cell research and leukaemia treatments, he has published more than 360 papers and is a fellow of the Royal Society.

He has not said what he plans to do next but, chances are, he will be back up north in Macclesfield. Throughout his time at the Wellcome Trust, Dr Dexter, a father of four, has gone home at the weekends. He enjoys folk singing, gardening and dominoes.

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