Chief Executive's blog

News from our Chief Executive, Professor Jackie Hunter

  • Our need for industry in delivering benefits from research

    Jackie Hunter

    The issue of Nature last week contained a special supplement on Innovations in the Microbiome. The microbiome is something I have become increasingly fascinated with, starting from early realisations of its importance whilst at GlaxoSmithKline, through to the work BBSRC sponsors at the Institute of Food Research and in universities. It was interesting to read the article by Nestlé, who sponsored the supplement, charting their interest in probiotic bacteria and the microbiome. Much of this work is done in conjunction with academia and indeed much of it could not have been done by Nestlé alone. But similarly, the academic researchers have needed Nestlé to translate their work into applications with industry and consumer benefit. […]

  • A week in California

    Jackie Hunter

    The past week and a bit was spent on the US West Coast, talking to experts in Big Data, Synthetic Biology (Synbio) and Plant and Animal Health. My colleagues, Melanie Welham and Amanda Collis, and I had some fascinating discussions which really helped put our plans for the next spending review in an international context. For example, in Synbio, it is clear that the approach needs to be truly multidisciplinary with a well-articulated biological problem at the heart of any programme rather than developing the tools and technologies in the abstract. However, investment in platforms is still required. It is also clear from talking to a number of researchers that the USA does not have an integrated Big Data strategy nor an overall Synbio strategy, although there are many well-funded initiatives. I wonder whether there is a need for some global solution for integrating and maintaining databases when funding terminates for a particular area. In the biomedical/health space, this might be something for Gates Foundation or another global funder to address in partnership with more regional funders. Who funds, and what to store permanently and how, is definitely something that needs more debate. […]

  • Uniting to champion research, innovation and growth

    Jackie Hunter

    Over the past few months I have been working with colleagues from across the Research Councils  to pull together the fabulous impact stories that we have to tell from the research that the Councils have invested in over the past spending review period.  As ‘impact champion’ for the Research Councils it has been an interesting experience to see how important it is to tell these impact stories in a clear way that doesn’t blind people with the great science that underpins them. […]

  • Tackling resistance is far from futile

    Jackie Hunter

    One of the ways BBSRC seeks input from our research community and other stakeholder groups is through our Research Advisory Panel (RAP). The panel helps with assessing our strategic thinking across the range of our activities and we had our first meeting of the year last week. One of the areas we discussed was anti-microbial resistance (AMR). Of course this has been an issue that has been very much to the fore in the past couple of years since the publication of Dame Sally Davies’s report on the subject and a report last year by RAND showed that the economic burden of AMR globally in the future will place a substantial burden on the world economy. The report concludes that it is this future burden that renders AMR a “challenge of utmost importance”.  There is also a UK government 5-year strategy for tackling anti-microbial resistance covering both human and animal AMR which was published in 2013 with the first annual progress report published in December 2014. There is still a need to increase understanding of AMR and its implications among non-scientists.  For example an informal, and yes very random, trawl of people I met last year from taxi drivers to friends and family showed that many people still think it is the person that is resistant to the antibiotic rather than the bug! I am pleased to see that Dame Sally will be taking her message about the threat from AMR to the AAAS Annual Meeting in the United States next month, where the Research Councils will also have a strong presence emphasising the importance of global collaboration to tackle this and other major challenges facing us. […]