As well as a variety of ‘internal’ meetings in Swindon (including the monthly meeting of RCUK Chief Executives), I attended (and presented for the Research Councils) at the latest meeting of the E-Infrastructure Leadership Council. Because the RCs collectively cover all of intellectual space, we all have interests in different aspects of e-science, and this group provides an excellent forum for discussing these.

The term ‘pharmacokinetics’ describes what happens to a drug when it meets a target organism (typically the human body), and it is an immensely important part of modern pharmacology (since it determines, for instance, how to set the right dose to achieve a particular level of drug in say the plasma). Modelling is an important part of PK, and although, sadly, the communities rarely converge, modern PK bears many similarities to Systems Biology (or Systems Pharmacology). Pharmacokinetics UK – PKUK – is a grouping of individuals with an interest in this subject and I much enjoyed taking part in a debate at their annual meeting on the extent to which small molecule drugs ‘hitchhike’ on  transporters that normally exist to move intermediary metabolites around. The other session I was able to stay for focussed on the pharmacokinetics of biologicals, that are quite different from those of small molecules, involving (for instance) the FcRn receptor and a competition with IgG. Two superb talks, from Don Mager (Buffalo) and Iain Gardner (Simcyp), set down our knowledge in the form of relevant models, that could predict well the half lives of a variety of biological including many monoclonal antibodies.

I was also able to attend the Chancellor’s extremely welcome and well received announcement last Friday about the importance of science and of a variety of investments in UK Science, including £20M for synthetic biology projects (part of our strategic LoLa scheme), and the launch of RCUK’s Strategic Framework for Capital Investment. On synthetic biology, and I had a useful discussion with Council Member Mike Goosey and with Lionel Clarke, chair of the coordination group for the Synthetic Biology roadmap (pdf) that we shall be seeking to implement.

I found buried in a speech on European copyright law by European Commissioner Michel Barnier the statement “I do not share the view of those that think copyright protection should be weakened so others can develop new commercial services free of cost”. I am not sure if this signals an attempt to stop the post-Hargreaves addition of value by content mining Open Access scientific publications, but I very much hope not. It is clearly something to keep a careful eye on.

I enjoyed a review on progress in the de novo design of proteins, indicating inter alia that the extent of folding to a particular motif is very strongly dependent on the lengths of the secondary structures, and can also be summarised according to at least three fundamental rules.

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