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Open innovation as a reality

Chris Watkins

Chris Watkins

Chris Watkins, the MRC’s Head of Translational Research, explains why today’s announcement of £7 million funding for 15 research projects awarded through our open innovation collaboration with AstraZeneca is such a significant step, and a signs of things to come.

We’re at an exciting time for medical research. Barriers are coming down, boundaries are blurring, and researchers are coming together more and more to crack important questions.

The term ’open innovation’ is bandied about a lot, but real examples of where it’s worked are only now beginning to emerge. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about what we’ve announced today — working with AstraZeneca, the MRC has provided UK academic researchers access to 22 well-characterised compounds and the funding to undertake studies which will lead to a deeper understanding of human disease and speed up the development of potential new treatments.

A major focus for the MRC over the past five years has been on research which translates the results of basic science into improved healthcare, products and services. Translational research is a pivotal part of MRC’s strategy and part of my job is to develop ways to make this happen. Read more

Profile: Chris Grainge

Chris Grainge

Chris Grainge

Royal Navy doctor and University of Southampton researcher Chris Grainge talks to Sarah Harrop about how his work on chronic asthma could lead to new ways of treating the disease, in the second of a series of profiles taken from our Annual Review 2011/12.

Not many MRC scientists have parachuted into icy cold oceans or researched the best way to escape from a wrecked submarine. But as a Royal Navy doctor, Chris Grainge has done both. When he’s not jumping out of planes, Chris is a respiratory medicine consultant at Southampton Hospital. Last year his MRC-funded research led to a new way of thinking about asthma which could help us use asthma drugs more effectively.

Although Chris’s medical and naval training saw him work as medical officer onboard a warship in the Caribbean and an icebreaker in Antarctica, his first love is working on the respiratory medicine wards. That’s because he gets to work with people of all ages with very different diseases. On a typical day he might see a young person with cystic fibrosis, an adult who has occupational lung disease or an older person with lung cancer or emphysema. Read more

Getting naked for science

Alan volunteering at The Big Bang Fair

Alan volunteering at The Big Bang Fair (Copyright: Alan Boyd)

Who are the Naked Scientists? And what’s it like to work with them? Alan Boyd, a PhD student from the MRC Institute for Hearing Research in Glasgow, found out on an eight-week MRC-funded foray into their audio world.

Call it what you will: science journalism; science communication; public engagement with science. Whatever the name, it’s about taking sometimes abstract, often difficult and almost always important discoveries in scientific research and making them accessible to the general public.

Over the past 10 years, the multi-award winning Naked Scientists radio show, podcasts, websites and live shows have become a major conduit through which people around the world receive their weekly dose of science.

The Naked Scientists occupy an office and a cupboard in the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge. Upon starting my internship, three things were clear. Firstly, this office had windows. As a PhD student in the depths of a hospital, that’s something I’d long ago dismissed as an unfathomable luxury. Secondly, lab meetings were to be replaced by strong coffee and continuously tight deadlines, flanked by publishing embargoes (which I nearly broke at least twice) and preparation for the radio show on a Sunday evening. Thirdly, the Naked Scientists remain disappointingly unfaithful to their name… Read more