LONDON--The U.K. government yesterday tapped a topflight neuroscientist to take up the reins of its main public funder of biomedical research, the Medical Research Council (MRC). Colin Blakemore, director of MRC's Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, will replace current chief George Radda on 1 October.
Blakemore has done pioneering work on early brain development and how experience shapes the visual system. He is also well known for his public defense of animal research, which has made him the target of kidnapping threats and bomb scares from animal rights activists.
A fighting spirit may come in handy during his 4-year MRC stint. Last March, the council was the subject of an excoriating report from the U.K.'s House of Commons that accused the $700 million body of making capricious funding decisions and consulting inadequately with the research community over plans for Biobank. The project hopes to be a huge data repository on the genetics and lifestyle of the British population (Science, 28 March, p. 1958).
"The onus will be on Colin to fully restore the MRC's reputation," says a senior scientist at Cancer Research UK, a charity.