Former Directors

Former Directors of NIMR are listed below:

Sir John Skehel (1987-2006)

In 1987 Sir John Skehel, Head of Infection and Immunity became Director of the Institute. During his Directorship the Institute's achievements included:

  • the discovery of mesoderm inducing factors in Xenopus embryos (J.C.Smith, EMBO Medal 1993)
  • the description of a novel mechanism of protein biosynthesis in mycobacteria (J.Colston, E. Davis and S. Sedgwick, 1992)
  • the discovery of the sex determining gene (R. Lovell-Badge and P. Goodfellow, 1991, Louis Jeantet Prix de Medecine 1995)
  • the discovery of the first virus ion channel (A.J.Hay, 1990)
  • the discovery that a Locus Control Region is capable of preventing position effect variegation in T-cell development (R. Festenstein & D. Kioussis, 1996)

To mark the retirement of Sir John Skehel as Director of NIMR, NIMR's art curator created an exhibition entitled 'Skehel Model: virology, NIMR and the world'.

Sir Dai Rees (1982-1987)

Sir Dai Rees was Director of the Institute for 5 years. During this time he restructured the research Divisions into three major groups, and established and directed the neighbouring Collaborative Centre (now part of MRC Technology). Highlights of this period were:

  • the discovery of the locus control region of globin gene expression and its function in transgenic animals independent of chromosomal integration site (F. Grosveld, 1986, Louis Jeantet Prix de Medecine 1990)
  • the definition of protein nuclear location signals (A.E. Smith, 1982)
  • the description of the control sequences responsible for co-ordinated expression in the yeast cell cycle of enzymes involved in DNA synthesis (L. Johnston, 1987)
  • the discovery of interleukin 5 (C.Sanderson, 1985)
  • the discovery that cytotoxic lymphocytes recognise antigens which are not normal surface membrane components (A. Townsend, 1982)

Sir Arnold Burgen (1971-1982)

On Sir Peter Medawar premature retirement in 1971 following illness, Sir Arnold Burgen became the Director and Head of a new Division of Molecular Pharmacology, with a special interest in the interaction of drugs with enzymes, particularly using magnetic resonance techniques. The MRC Biomedical NMR Centre was formed at the Institute in 1980. Outstanding among the successes in the 1970s were:

  • the discovery of the interferon-induced nuclease activating oligonucleotide 2,5A (I.Kerr, 1976)
  • the elucidation of the structure of the influenza virus haemagglutinin glycoprotein (D.C.Wiley, I.A.Wilson, J.J.Skehel, 1981, Louis Jeantet Prix de Medecine 1988).

Sir Peter Medawar (1962-1971)

Sir Peter Medawar (Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1960) succeeded Sir Charles Harington to establish a major centre for immunological research at the Institute. During this time:

  • the discovery was made that lymphocytes of different types co-operate in the immune system (N.A.Mitchison, 1967)
  • the recombination of avian and human influenza viruses involved in the generation of pandemic influenza was described (H.G. Pereira,1967)
  • the first analysis of the structure of adenovirus was reported (R.C. Valentine, 1975)

Sir Charles Harington (1942-1962)

Sir Henry Dale was succeeded by Sir Charles Harington, a specialist in the biochemistry of thyroid hormone. Sir Charles reorganised the research programme into ten Divisions. Major achievements under his Directorship included:

Sir Henry Dale (1928-1942)

During the Directorship of Sir Henry Dale, the first Director of the National Institute for Medical Research, the Institute was located at premises in Hampstead. The original Institute comprised three Divisions of experimental research:

  • Bacteriology, including Parasitology and Virology
  • Biochemistry and Pharmacology, including Organic Chemistry
  • Applied Physiology

During Sir Henry's Directorship the Institute had considerable success, most notably:

  • the discovery of human influenza virus (Andrewes,Smith and Laidlaw, 1933)
  • the discovery of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, for which Sir Henry Dale received the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Top of page

© MRC National Institute for Medical Research
The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA