Tobacco link causes cancer team to leave

March 23, 2001

Nottingham University has lost a top research team after its decision to accept tobacco industry funding.

David Thurston, director of Nottingham's Cancer Research Campaign gene-targeted drug design research group, has decided to take up a post at the University of London's School of Pharmacy and most of his 15-strong team are going with him.

The move follows Professor Thurston's warning in The THES last month that he would have to consider leaving Nottingham if the CRC carried out its "veiled threat" to withdraw research grants in protest over the University accepting £3.8 million from British American Tobacco.

Professor Thurston said he was inundated with offers from other universities after his comments.

Although he did not want to leave Nottingham and had received strong support from the university's school of pharmacy, the fact that the CRC was unhappy about the BAT donation and had already withdrawn in protest a £1.5 million grant for replacing out-of-date buildings in his department made Professor Thurston "consider the future".

He said: "The fact is that the CRC is the largest British cancer research charity, and we do need their good will. I had to make a decision as director of our research group, and look to its future."

Professor Thurston's group is on the verge of producing new cancer treatments using gene-targeting.

The London pharmacy school is close to the group's collaborators at University College London, and its location is ideal for the team's start-up company, SpiroGen.

But Professor Thurston said it was Nottingham's decision to take the BAT money, and the CRC's response that persuaded him to move.

"I have done a careful analysis, and unless the university gives the BAT money back, which seems very unlikely, I cannot see how I can reasonably expect the CRC to continue support for my research," he said.

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