We have opened an invitation to comment on a strategy for UK biotechnology and biological sciences – you can find the details of how to respond to the questionnaire on our website.

Copyright: BBSRC
Invitation to comment: strategy for UK biotechnology and biological sciences – questionnaire closes 11 October 2017. Copyright: BBSRC

You might ask, what is our aim in developing this strategy? In many ways this is quite simple – we want to bring the collective experience and expertise of our communities together to articulate what needs to be done to ensure that the UK’s world-leading bioscience research base continues to deliver exciting, ground-breaking new knowledge (as I have blogged about recently) and to realise the opportunities for economic and social good that bioscience offers. The questionnaire lays out our emerging thinking and covers aspects such as talent, infrastructure, partnerships and the place of frontier bioscience alongside strategic investments – we’d love your thoughts on all, or some, of this.

To help stimulate thinking, I volunteered to share my reflections on how much bioscience has changed over the last 20 years. Looking back on my own area of stem cell biology it is remarkable what has changed – Dolly had only just been cloned, after years of work, and induced pluripotent stem cells were but a pipedream. Today generating IPS cells has become a matter of routine, with new applications being reported all the time. New technologies have revolutionised and accelerated how we interrogate genomes. At the start of an EU FP6 project – Functional Genomics in Engineered Embryonic Stem Cells – we were using the latest Affymetrix microarrays to examine gene expression requiring RNA from several 100,000 cells – today RNASeq at the single cell level would be our method of choice. Genome editing is revolutionising our research and how it interacts with society (e.g. pet micropigs), and big data, informatics, precision biology are more advanced than we could have guessed 20 years ago. Diversity of our workforce, while still a big issue, now feels like it is being seriously addressed, we are more global than ever, research is more collaborative and interdisciplinary and often relies on more and more expensive equipment – I could go on!

While it’s enlightening to look back, the big question is where can and should biology take us in the next 20 years and what needs to be done today to make it happen.

At BBSRC we take our role as a major investor in bioscience very seriously and we seek to work with our community to champion and lead bioscience in the UK. Our convening of this strategy for UK biotechnology and biological science is a key part of helping us set out the promise of bioscience research and the steps needed to make good on that promise. Please do share your thoughts with us!

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