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Report of the General Board on the establishment of a Merck Company Foundation Professorship of Experimental Neurology

The GENERAL BOARD beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. Neuroscience forms one of the main research activities in the Clinical School, embracing programmes in the academic units of Neurology, Neurosurgery, Anaesthesia, in the Herchel Smith Laboratory, and in the Department of Psychiatry, including those of injury and other forms of damage to the nervous system. The recent appointment of a Professor of Stroke Medicine provides further strength to this research. The field of reconstruction of the nervous system is a particularly active and fast-moving one, and has a high public profile. Major scientific developments have taken place recently, notably in stem cell biology, plasticity, and neurodegenerative disease, while research into axon regeneration has reached the stage where there is a real prospect of producing an effective treatment for spinal cord injury, and the first steps towards clinical trials have been taken.

2. The Brain Repair programme recently became part of the Clinical School, adding the capability of joining large-scale animal, cell, and molecular studies to the predominantly clinical programmes running in the other Departments. This has presented opportunities to develop major scientific programmes that run across the various Departments and span the whole spectrum from basic cellular and molecular neuroscience to clinical application. The Faculty Board of Clinical Medicine consider that the Brain Repair programme, with its capabilities in basic science, should provide an important stimulus to bringing together the various neuroscience activities within the Clinical School, providing both an interface with other programmes in the Clinical School in the fields of neuronal plasticity, axon regeneration, and neurodegeneration, and also the opportunity to extend this research into basic cellular and molecular science.

3. The Faculty Board have recognized therefore that effective management of the Brain Repair programme is fundamental to the future development of neuroscience within the Clinical School. They have accordingly advised the General Board that a senior academic appointment, at the Professorial level, is necessary to provide leadership for the Programme. The Professor would have core responsibilities for research in the field of reconstruction of the nervous system and for building strong research programmes by bringing together the activities of various collaborative projects within clinical Departments. The Professor would be expected to offer postgraduate teaching and to contribute to undergraduate teaching programmes.

4. An opportunity has now arisen to take this forward through the generosity of the Merck Company Foundation who have provided funds to support a Professorship from 1 January 2002 for a period of five years in the first instance. The Faculty Board of Clinical Medicine have accepted the responsibility for ensuring that permanent funding is secured to support the Professorship after the five-year period financed by the benefaction and have undertaken to meet the full costs of any shortfall in the funds available to support the Professorship. The Faculty Board have assured the General Board that suitable accommodation for the Professor is available and that the necessary support and facilities can be provided. The Board are also assured that the Professorship will attract a strong field of well-qualified candidates; they have agreed to concur in the view of the Faculty Board that election to the Professorship should be made by an ad hoc Board of Electors and that candidature should be open without limitation or preference to all persons whose work falls within the title of the office.

5. The General Board recommend:

I. That the generous offer of a benefaction from the Merck Company Foundation to support the establishment of a Professorship be gratefully accepted.

II. That a Merck Company Foundation Professorship of Experimental Neurology be established in the University from 1 January 2002 for one tenure, placed in Schedule B of the Statutes, and assigned to the Department of Medicine.

30 October 2001 ALEC N. BROERS, Vice-Chancellor H. A. CHASE A. C. MINSON

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Cambridge University Reporter 14 November 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.