Last week, to mark and celebrate the MRC’s Centenary, the Foundation for Science and Technology organised a one-off debate to discuss what the MRC’s research priorities should be for the next quarter of a century. Louise Wren, MRC Public Affairs Manager, was there to hear a stellar line-up of speakers — Dr Sydney Brenner, Sir Paul Nurse and Sir Keith Peters — talk about how the future of medical research lies in experimenting with ourselves.
Last Wednesday, I joined a packed auditorium at the Royal Society along with MRC scientists, former MRC Chief Executives and Chairs, and representatives from medical research charities, industry and government. We were all there to see what some of the country’s most eminent scientists had to say about the future direction of UK medical research.
Sydney — former Director of the MRC Laboratory Molecular Biology (LMB) and currently Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies’ Crick-Jacobs Centre in the US — began his talk by describing a moment early in his career when he travelled from Oxford to Cambridge to see Watson and Crick’s model of DNA, an experience which “opened the door to everything”. His list of subsequent achievements is considerable: he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work showing how genes regulate organ development and how cells are programmed to die, and also co-discovered messenger RNA, which enables the DNA code to be translated into proteins. Sydney spoke warmly of his career at the MRC which spanned almost 35 years, saying the LMB was an “amazing vehicle” which spearheaded research across the world, benefiting from its open, non-hierarchical approach. Read more