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Freedom in Research: Learning from the Rockefeller Institute


The growth of the ICP
Christian de Duve Scientist
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Well, I was of course associated with the very beginnings of this institute and therefore I was very much involved in the early years when we had to complete the building: find the equipment for the building, find money for the building, and especially finding new co-workers – that is, filling... finding occupants for the research labs. And in that I was... I was partly successful: I was able to recruit several excellent people. It was a difficult job because the... it... it needs time for an institute to become known, to establish itself in the international community. And so the beginning, obviously... the word ICP [International Institute of Cellular and Molecular Pathology] didn't mean anything to anybody – it's not like Pasteur Institute or ICRF or Rockefeller – and so it took a little effort to try and find the best people, but eventually we did have very good people and I would say that the ICP has prospered very much in those early days and it continues. My successors have been, perhaps, even more successful than I was in recruiting really good people. Now, for instance, the institute has a first-class human geneticist coming from Finland, Vikkula, they have a few first-class molecular biologists coming from Romania, and so on; so the institute has certainly, I think, grown into a more mature and a better known organisation, and certainly I can't claim much credit for that. I mean, even at the beginning, maybe I had the idea but I was helped by a number of colleagues who participated – I've mentioned their names – in this venture, and it was a collective venture. And without being too boastful or too... too optimistic, I think the ICP has earned the title of maybe the best biomedical research centre in Belgium and one of the centres of excellence that are now known in... in Europe and recognised by the European community, so we do get more and more support from the European community. So it's a modest undertaking – about 250 people; it's... it’s not a big group... big institute. It's a modest undertaking but it’s... it has been built on what I think are sound principles – those principles I learnt, again, from Rockefeller.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: ICP, International Institute of Cellular and Molecular Pathology, Miikka Vikkula

Duration: 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008