Unlike the Spartoí, born of dragon’s teeth, Strategic Plans do not spring fully formed from the earth. Ours, which was launched this week with an accompanying video, represents the culmination of considerable work and extensive consultations with our community and with our Strategy Panels and Strategy Advisory Board. Indeed the formal consultation phase attracted more than 120 written replies from individuals and organisations. Under the strapline the Age of Bioscience, the resulting document (PDF) both celebrates the strength and importance of UK Bioscience, and sets out a most exciting vision of how BBSRC science can continue to contribute hugely to the health and wealth of the nation (and globally). As part of our continuing consultation, reactions to the strategic plans are invited via this blog or via twitter. [...]
Last week began with the viva voce exam of my last research student, Eva Zelena, who emerged from a 3.5h discourse based on her work on developing and exploiting methods for metabolomics with flying colours. The first use of the word ‘metabolome’ was in 1998, a year in which I was invited to join domain experts in Streptomyces biology to help develop tools for the emerging field of ’omics, as part of a BBSRC Initiative called Functional Genomics Technologies. This was one of our earliest initiatives as the world learned to adapt to and make use of the post-genomic era, and was followed, for instance, by two rounds of the Investigating Gene Function initiatives (a review of which will appear this year). [...]
The story of Goldilocks and the three bears is sufficiently well known not to need repeating here, its chief point for our purposes being that there was an optimum in everything she tried, whether it was the chairs, the beds or the porridge.
Chemical hormesis describes a similar set of phenomena in biology. To quote Calabrese (1997), “The concept of chemical hormesis has a long history, originating from the research of Schulz (1888) over a century ago who noted that many chemicals were able to stimulate growth and respiration of yeast at low doses yet were inhibitory at higher levels. This concept of a generalized low-dose stimulation/high-dose inhibition was gradually supported by similar observations with other chemicals and eventually became known as the Arndt-Schulz Law.” [...]
In December I was delighted to participate, with MRC Chief Executive Sir Leszek Borysiewicz and Science Minister Lord Drayson, at the event celebrating the publication of the UK’s largest survey of public attitudes to stem cell science. The occasion was important in several ways. First, the findings showed public support for basic science and its translation into treatments for serious conditions (and there is an interesting discussion to be had on how people perceive the relative seriousness of different conditions). Secondly, the meeting took place shortly after the high-profile demonstration of research feeding into treatments – the use of stem cells in a trachea transplant – for which part of the process derived from BBSRC-funded research by Anthony Hollander at the University of Bristol. Thirdly, the study illustrated that public dialogue is becoming embedded in UK research culture – BBSRC’s Bioscience for Society Panel will be advising us on our response to the findings and recommendations. [...]