Our history

Our history

Virology at Glasgow: a proud history

Proud beginnings

On the 10th March 1957, Sir Michael Stoker wrote a letter addressed to the esteemed geneticist, Sir James Watson, a colleague and—most importantly—a good friend. In the letter he asks for his advice about two job offers, one based in Edinburgh and the other in Glasgow. Each option included the establishment and directorship of a MRC centre for fundamental virology research.

Sir Michael opted for Glasgow, perhaps also influenced by the fact that important virology research was already flourishing in Glasgow by the early 1950s.

In April 1957, with the support of a £237,000 grant from the Scottish Hospital Endowments Research Trust for a new building, the new Medical Research Council (MRC) Experimental Virus Research Unit was established at the University of Glasgow, in Church Street. Michael Stoker’s appointment in 1958 as Professor of Virology at the University of Glasgow was the first Chair of Virology at any British university, and marked the emergence of virology as a fully fledged scientific discipline in the UK.

Stoker was appointed Honorary Director of the MRC Unit in 1959, and the new Institute of Virology building at Church St. was formally inaugurated on 4th May 1961. You can read more about the history of virology at Glasgow in our poster.

Birth of the MRC-University unit

In May 2009, following a nationwide competition, the MRC announced the award of a new multidisciplinary centre for virology research to Glasgow for a proposal that brought together the existing MRC Virology Unit and University of Glasgow’s virology researchers, to integrate human and animal virology. The MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) was launched on 1st April 2010 with Massimo Palmarini as Director.

Historically, virology in Glasgow had operated over two campuses, and to realise the vision of bringing all members of the CVR together in a single interconnected site, a new building was commissioned in 2012. This was a joint venture between the University of Glasgow and the Medical Research Council (MRC), and funded by the University, the MRC and an infrastructure award from the Wolfson Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. The new state-of-the-art Sir Michael Stoker Building, based on the Garscube campus, was completed in 2014. 


Film: a history of virology at Glasgow

As laboratories relocate to the CVR's new research space in the Sir Michael Stoker Building, staff based at former Church St labs — some of whom have memories that go back to the early days of research at Church St — reflected on the culture and history of virology research at Glasgow.

History of the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research