It is always pleasing to see our investments in the research base bearing fruit whether it be in excellent publications or social and economic impact. So the announcement by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute of the creation of a new Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV) at Hinxton was very welcome. The new CTTV will aim to address a wide range of human diseases and will share its data openly in the interests of accelerating drug discovery. This new centre will employ up to 50 people from the partner organisations but longer term will involve other organisations and companies who are interested in this area. It was particularly good to receive confirmation from Patrick Vallance, President of R&D at GSK, that their decision to base the CTTV in the UK was influenced by their recognition of the UK’s world class capabilities and skills in the areas of genomic, data mining and translational research. Much of this capability has been built using BBSRC funding for basic research in bioinformatics and genomics, along with other funders such as the Wellcome Trust and MRC. The CTTV will itself be based in the EBI South Building, home of the ELIXIR Hub and built with Research Council funding led by BBSRC. [...]
My first two weeks at BBSRC are nearly over and I can honestly say that they have lived up to my expectations – i.e. variety, great science and people and a wee bit of travel…
Last week, as well as spending time in Swindon, I also visited the Norwich Research Park which was hosting the quarterly meeting of the directors of the National Institutes of Bioscience at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC). The meeting chair was Mario Caccamo who was recently appointed as the head of TGAC. The TGAC staff also talked about their work at a poster display but highlights from all the institutes were discussed. [...]
The first external meeting of the week was to fulfil, with Director of Science Prof Melanie Welham, an invitation to discuss areas of mutual scientific interest with the Strategy Board of the Medical Research Council. These included bioinformatics and e-science, systems and synthetic biology, nutrition and health, vaccinology and antimicrobials, all areas where our communities have complementary strengths and where we might well seek to develop some joint initiatives. [...]
Following our latest Audit Board meeting, I made an appearance (available for a while to be viewed on Parliament TV) before the very distinguished House of Lords Science and Technology Committee to discuss the RCUK implementation of the Open Access (OA) agenda. The draft transcript of that will be forthcoming before too long, and will soon enough be published. Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts also gave evidence, just after us.
This year, BBSRC sponsored a Table at the annual dinner of the BioIndustry Association, where we were delighted to host the Minister – who gave a short and very upbeat speech about the prospects for Biotechnology – and other guests. We were also very pleased that Council member Andy Richards received a Lifetime Achievement Award, and that the winners of this year’s Biotechnology YES competition were in attendance. The BIA also published a second report (PDF) on Citizens’ Innovation funds, as one way to help fund biotechs, while the Government Office for Science published an interesting report (PDF) on assisting engagement between academia and policymakers. [...]
Last week began with one of the regular meetings of the Chief Executives of MRC, EPSRC, BBSRC and the TSB with senior representatives of AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, along with representatives of the Bioindustry Association and the ABPI. This ‘Pharma Forum’ provides a useful vehicle for discussing cross-cutting research directions, especially given the net worth to the UK economy of the pharmaceuticals industry.
We also had one of the regular meetings of Chief Executives with Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, which again provided a very useful forum for the exchange of thoughts on a variety of topical and strategic issues as we move towards the autumn statement. [...]