Since I had almost no external visits in last week’s Bank Holiday-truncated schedule – although I did have one of my regular 1:1 meetings with Sir Mark Walport of the Wellcome Trust – I shall ruminate a little on the relationships between biochemistry and management. This is partly, of course, because both involve an understanding of systems and how they adapt to external inputs, a rather nice example from this perspective (IMHO) being an analysis that I have just co-authored. As I have remarked before, biological systems have tended to select for robustness over immediate efficiency; one way that this can achieved is via a substantial elasticity of individual biochemical steps to changes in inputs. In the study cited, we looked at the rather extensive changes in gene expression and metabolism consequent upon a pulsed change in nutrient status. Some, such as changes in inosine metabolism, were rather striking and not necessarily expected, which is why it is best not to start with hypotheses for this kind of experiment. [...]
The week began with a meeting to discuss the development of ELIXIR, a pan-European infrastructure for bioinformatics. BBSRC, with support from MRC and NERC, is the lead agency for the UK part of this, whose hub will be at the EBI and for which there will be a series of other nodes. I gave a talk about the strategic importance of ELIXIR generally and how it fits into our own Strategic Plan. There was considerable enthusiasm from the many European partner countries represented, and a palpable and shared sense of purpose.
We also had an important meeting of BBSRC Council, the last before the upcoming budget/ Comprehensive Spending Review this week, where a number of significant developments were brought forward, and where I rehearsed the European recognition of the importance of the Knowledge Based BioEconomy, on which I have blogged before. [...]
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). [...]