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Science Minister tours "extraordinary" MRC Molecular Biology Lab

21 Oct 2015

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson visited the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge last week to see first-hand some of the exciting research carried out there and to learn about the institute’s close relationship with industry.

The visit was hosted by LMB Director Sir Hugh Pelham, Deputy Director Sir Venki Ramakrishnan and MRC Chief Executive Sir John Savill.

During his tour of the LMB’s laboratories Mr Johnson got an insight into some of the institute’s science. Group Leader Dr Melina Schuh and her PhD student Agata Zielinska presented their research on chromosome abnormalities that occur during human egg development. As Mr Johnson viewed a human egg under a microscope, they explained how their work could one day reduce miscarriages and congenital birth defects.

Dr Madeline Lancaster described her research on human brain development using the first 3D models of developing human brains, created from stem cells. These "mini brains" could help uncover the secrets of what makes our brains unique and, ultimately, could help tackle diseases such as autism and Parkinson’s disease.

In conversation with AstraZeneca’s Dr Jane Osbourn, VP, Research and Development and Site Leader for MedImmune in Cambridge, Mr Johnson heard about the LMB’s longstanding and successful collaboration with industry, the latest fruits of which include AstraZeneca’s decision to build its £330m R&D centre and corporate headquarters adjacent to the LMB site.

Mr Johnson also saw some of LMB’s impressive science history collection, including a Nobel Prize medal and a blackboard used and signed by Francis Crick and Sydney Brenner, and noted the institute’s reputation as a ‘Nobel Prize Factory’.

The importance for science of the long-term stable funding that LMB provides was also highlighted to Mr Johnson. Between 2012 and 2017 the MRC will provide the LMB with almost £170 million in core funding, which can be allocated with great flexibility. This long-term central funding helps give scientists the freedom to tackle difficult and fundamental problems in biology, and the flexibility enables scientists to identify and respond rapidly to new scientific challenges, technological developments and the needs of society.

Jo Johnson has since commented on how impressed he was by the LMB during his visit. During a debate on 21 October he told Parliamentary colleagues: “It was an extraordinary centre and we have every intention of ensuring it continues to remain one of the world’s leading centres.”

Science minister Jo Johnson touring the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. All copyright reserved MRC 2015.

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  • Locations: Cambridge
  • Type: News article