LONDON--The Wellcome Trust, the charitable foundation that dominates biomedical research in the United Kingdom, has a year to find a new leader. Mike Dexter has announced that he will not extend his 5-year term when it expires in 2003.
Dexter, 57, was a respected cancer researcher and newly named director of the Paterson Institute in Manchester when he took the reins of the trust in 1998. Many observers say that under Dexter's leadership the $16 billion trust used its money to help save British science, often shaming the government into increasing its own support. Over the next 5 years the trust plans to spend about $4.3 billion, 85% in the United Kingdom, supporting biomedical research and related activities. "[Now] is the right time to begin the search for a successor," Dexter said in a statement about his decision not to seek an optional 2-year extension.
John Bell, head of Oxford University's Department of Clinical Medicine, calls Dexter's decision "a healthy way to run biomedical science. You find people of real quality, but they shouldn't be there forever. A lot was done in 5 years." Dexter has made no plans for what to do next and is "not going to think about it until next year," says a Wellcome spokesperson.
Observers give Dexter credit for charting the trust's recent course, which has included improving salaries and career paths for scientists and coaxing the government into matching an $800 million initiative for modernizing research infrastructure in U.K. universities after years of neglect.
But Dexter's work to secure the U.K.'s place in international genomics and large-scale biology may be his most significant accomplishment. Under his direction, the trust pumped hundreds of millions into the Sanger Centre, now Europe's largest sequencing and biological computing facility.
The Wellcome Trust