Last week I gave my second regular talk to staff at BBSRC Swindon Office since I started in this role, highlighting some of the exciting science we have funded and our areas of focus this year. As part of our 20th Anniversary year we are supporting two charities through a range of voluntary fundraising activities by staff. The two charities chosen by members of BBSRC staff are Water Aid and the Honeypot Children’s Charity and we invited representatives from each to the meeting. Both of these are very worthwhile causes. The Honeypot Children’s Charity helps young carers and vulnerable children between the ages of 5 and 15. They provide an annual respite break where children can meet others in similar circumstances as well as on-going support. £425 can fund a child for a year and make a real difference to their lives. There must be a link between this charity with its name and logo with some of our funded bee researchers – ideas please!

The figures from Water Aid are truly staggering – 1 in 10 people globally living without access to safe water – over 700 million people! 2.5 billion people do not have access to a toilet, with all the implications that brings. For example more children die of diarrhoea every year than from AIDS, malaria and measles combined. So in order to support these worthwhile causes and try and regain some fitness I have decided to do a half marathon and am currently looking for a suitable one sometime in the summer – that should give me enough time to overcome my knee injury and build up the distance. I will keep you posted on progress…

My first Appointments Board meeting was an interesting experience and I was pleased that diversity was high on the agenda as it was in a meeting on women in STEM that I attended at Portcullis House where Dame Julia Slingo was talking, amongst others. I also had an enjoyable meeting (and bowl of soup) with Professor Jeremy Farrar at the Wellcome Trust where we identified some common themes across our respective strategies. BBSRC has recently published a new impact report which highlights some of the progress we have made against our strategy.

There was a lively debate on patents held at the British Library as part of its Talk Science series with some interesting presentations by a panel of speakers from academia and industry. The talks will be available as a podcast in the near future. Much of the debate was around pharmaceutical patents but other more general aspects of patents in biomedicine were also discussed.

One of the areas of health that I am learning much more about is animal health. There are many different disease of species important to us in the UK – from pigs to horses – and there have been a couple of recent publications from BBSRC funded scientists that have increased our understanding of the diseases or created better routes to studying them.

Researchers from industry and academia have studied the early interaction between porcine circovirus 2 (PCV-2) and the innate immune system in the pathogenesis of Post-Weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS) in pigs which lends further support for an interaction between PCV-2 and PMWS. PMWS is a multifactorial disease that occurs between 5 and 12 weeks of age and leads to weight loss and increased mortality so anything that furthers our understanding of the cause of this disease will be of benefit in terms of discovering future treatments.

In another paper, The Roslin Institute has developed pluripotent stem cells from the fibroblasts of a young horse which they then differentiated into functional nerve cells. These cells can now be used for in vitro studies of neurological diseases of horses such as grass sickness that can be fatal.

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