Today the MRC is honouring two of our most eminent scientists with the MRC Millennium Medal which recognises research that has led to significant health and economic benefits. In the second of our profiles of the winners, Katherine Nightingale talks to Sir Greg Winter, who pioneered techniques that have led to antibody therapies for cancer, and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. He has established hugely successful spin out companies and continues to develop new types of drugs.
Greg Winter (Copyright: Tony Pope)
It was an elderly woman with lymphoma who changed things for Greg Winter. It was 1989 and the patient at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge was the first person to take Campath-1H, a human antibody that had been fused with parts of a rat antibody to attack cancerous lymphocytes. Read more
Today the MRC is honouring two of our most eminent scientists with the MRC Millennium Medal, which recognises research that has led to significant health and economic benefits. In the first of our profiles of the recipients, we meet Sir Philip Cohen, who has devoted his 40-year career to studying a type of cell regulation called protein phosphorylation. His collaborations with the pharmaceutical industry have helped to accelerate the development of new drugs for a variety of diseases. He spoke to Katherine Nightingale about ‘blue skies’ research, working with industry and birdwatching.
If you need reminding of just how long researchers need to toil away in the lab before their findings might impact on the ‘real world’, look no further than Philip Cohen. Now credited as partly responsible for one of the largest and fastest growing areas of drug discovery, it was 25 years before he first got a call from a pharmaceutical company.
“People used to say ‘Oh, what you’re doing is interesting but it will never be the slightest bit of use for improving health or for wealth creation’,” Philip recalls. Read more
Robin Weiss in the lab he’s soon to close
University College London virology professor Robin Weiss retires from research at the end of March after 30 years of continuous MRC funding. He tells Sarah Harrop about his eventful career, which has involved critical discoveries about HIV’s modus operandi, catching jungle fowl in Malaysia and developing microbicides based on llama antibodies.
The MRC runs through Robin’s career like the letters in a stick of rock, right back to his first ever job as a graduate research assistant in India with the now defunct MRC Experimental Genetics Unit in 1963.
During his PhD in cancer research, also funded by the MRC, he switched tracks to cancer-causing viruses, and the next two decades saw Robin carrying out virology research in other far flung corners of the globe. He did a postdoc in Prague “in the dark days after the Soviet tanks rolled in” and went on a field trip to Malaysia during which he lived with aboriginal people and caught wild jungle fowl to study the virus strains they were carrying in their DNA. Read more