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. [...]
Tag: synthetic biology
The week began with a ‘Research Showcase’ event in the Palace of Westminster, highlighting the contribution made by five HEIs to various grand challenges, including bioenergy, and attracting some 30 MPs and members of the Upper House.
Most other meetings were internal, but I did enjoy a very interesting visit to the National Centre for Earth Observation where Robert Gurney showed me some of the very nice online tools they are producing for mashing up environmental and other data. Some of these may well be applicable to other datasets (and I note our call for crowd sourcing applications). I also had a very useful discussion with Sir John Beddington on environmental monitoring, an area where NERC and ourselves share some common interests. [...]
Among a number of our community who were honoured in Her Majesty’s list of New Year Honours (pdf), I was especially delighted to see that our Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer Steve Visscher had been awarded a richly deserved CBE, for Services to the Support of Scientific Research. BBSRC’s formal announcement is elsewhere, so here all I shall record is many congratulations indeed to Steve!
Just before the break, the Government’s Intellectual Property Office published an important updated response (pdf) to the Hargreaves Review, setting down clear guidance as to how copyright is to be modernized to allow (among other things) researchers to make the best fair use of published research – which by definition needs to be Open Access. While Open Access has some transition costs (financial and otherwise) I do hope that UK researchers will be alive, encouraged, and thereby well placed, to exploit the opportunities that such Open Access brings for innovation. [...]
As well as a variety of ‘internal’ meetings in Swindon (including the monthly meeting of RCUK Chief Executives), I attended (and presented for the Research Councils) at the latest meeting of the E-Infrastructure Leadership Council. Because the RCs collectively cover all of intellectual space, we all have interests in different aspects of e-science, and this group provides an excellent forum for discussing these.
The term ‘pharmacokinetics’ describes what happens to a drug when it meets a target organism (typically the human body), and it is an immensely important part of modern pharmacology (since it determines, for instance, how to set the right dose to achieve a particular level of drug in say the plasma). Modelling is an important part of PK, and although, sadly, the communities rarely converge, modern PK bears many similarities to Systems Biology (or Systems Pharmacology). Pharmacokinetics UK – PKUK – is a grouping of individuals with an interest in this subject and I much enjoyed taking part in a debate at their annual meeting on the extent to which small molecule drugs ‘hitchhike’ on transporters that normally exist to move intermediary metabolites around. The other session I was able to stay for focussed on the pharmacokinetics of biologicals, that are quite different from those of small molecules, involving (for instance) the FcRn receptor and a competition with IgG. Two superb talks, from Don Mager (Buffalo) and Iain Gardner (Simcyp), set down our knowledge in the form of relevant models, that could predict well the half lives of a variety of biological including many monoclonal antibodies. [...]
I attended two back-to-back meetings at Portcullis House last week. The first was a discussion organised by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on Bioenergy. Chaired by Lord Oxburgh, this featured interesting talks from speakers representing BP Biofuels, DECC, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Forestry Commission. A strong consensus emerged around the views that biofuels had a significant role to play as part of the Bioeconomy, and that key to their success was a genuine social and environmental sustainability.
The second meeting was a ‘diamond jubilee’ celebration of 60 years of British Science achievement (pdf), with talks on Life Sciences (Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell). Chemistry (Prof Lesley Yellowlees) and Physics (Prof Brian Cox). It was thoroughly pleasant to be reminded of the litany of British scientific achievements since 1952, and Dame Nancy’s excellent presentation ended with a couple of thought-provoking slides on seeking to understand why the UK was and is so astonishingly good in the (Life) Sciences. [...]