In the 1990s I became very interested in the potential of novel technologies to alter gene expression and co-edited a book on antisense and its potential to manipulate novel gene expression in the central nervous system. Technology has moved on enormously since then and we now have many different ways of manipulating gene expression in animals and plants. BBSRC funds some of this work though the institutes and in universities. Recently a paper was published from workers at the Bristol University on how the CRISPR system functions which was co-funded by ourselves and the Wellcome Trust. [...]
Before the Easter weekend, I felt very privileged to be asked to lay the foundation stone for the new Open Innovation Hub at Rothamsted Research last week – a significant milestone in the development at Rothamsted of a UK Research and Innovation Campus. It gave me an opportunity to talk about open innovation and the benefits an open innovation approach can bring to both industry and academia. Open innovation is an approach that I strongly believe can accelerate the translation of research into application and unlock solutions to otherwise seemingly unsolvable problems. I championed the approach in my previous roles in the pharmaceutical sector and ran my own business that sought to harness the power of open innovation before joining BBSRC. [...]
Prof Jackie Hunter is away during early January so her regular blog is hosting guest posts from other BBSRC staff during the next fortnight. This week’s guest author is Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC’s Executive Director for Innovation and Skills and executive lead for industrial biotechnology and bioenergy.
I spent a few days in Cumbria over the holiday period, which is remarkably relevant to many aspects of BBSRC. One of the major industries there is food and farming, not least hill farming. All highly relevant to the Oxford Farming Conference at which the Secretary of State for Defra emphasised as one of the three priorities for the Department going forward is the challenge of growing the rural economy (PDF). Another focus he pointed to is that of our national security in relation to plant and animal disease: a major area of BBSRC investment is in research in these areas and in critical infrastructure such as the new high containment labs being constructed at Pirbright. The Agritech Catalyst, announced recently, will be an important route to supporting research in this area. [...]
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. [...]
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Taiwanese National Science Council and BBSRC last November, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Taiwan last week, necessarily for a short but very intense, useful and enjoyable programme.
The first port of call was the College of Life Sciences of the National Taiwan University in Taipei where I was able to speak with a good number of the Faculty and also gave a talk about BBSRC’s funding models, as well as an academic seminar to a full (and evidently well-informed) house on the cellular uptake of pharmaceutical drugs. [...]