Blog posts

Grandfather of allergy: Dr William Frankland, the 106-year-old doctor

Dr William Frankland, aged 106, has helped transform our understanding of allergies during his long career in medicine. A pioneer in the field, Dr Frankland popularised the pollen count to help clinicians and patients understand what triggers their seasonal allergies. Originally published on the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust blog and reproduced here with permission, he reflects on his career and working for the NHS for 70 years. 


People often ask me, how is it that I’ve lived until 106. All I can say is I’ve come close to death so many times but somehow I’ve always managed to miss it and that’s why I’m still here.

I was born in 1912, six weeks early. My identical twin brother and I weighed three pounds one ounce each but we both survived – he died in 1995, at age 83. As an early baby, that’s the first time I survived against the odds.

I first encountered hay fever when I was a child. I grew up in the Lake District where my brother and I spent our summers helping a local farmer with his hay. One day, I told my brother my eyes were itchy and I couldn’t go on. “You’re feeble,” he said. It took me 30 years before I realised I had a real problem with summer hay fever and about 90 years to grow out of that allergy.

(more…)

Outpacing outbreaks: how we’re making cheaper vaccines, faster

Dr Cleo Kontoravdi and Dr Zoltán Kis

When outbreaks emerge, speeding up vaccine development could be the difference between life and death. In this post, Dr Zoltán Kis provides an insight into how Imperial’s chemical engineers are making speedy vaccines a reality.


The worst Ebola epidemic in history swept across West Africa between 2014 to 2016, claiming 11,300 lives. This major outbreak was closely followed by the 2015-2016 Zika epidemic in Latin America. Preventing future epidemics is more important than ever and developing new vaccines are an essential weapon in fighting disease outbreaks. However, with the average vaccine development lasting 10 years, this is not comparable to the speed and frequency of outbreaks which can cause calamity in a matter of months. (more…)

Easy question first: why do you want to study medicine?

Dr James Moss debunks some of the myths around medical school interviews and shares his personal perspective as a member of the interviewing panel for Imperial College School of Medicine.


Interviewing prospective students is a privilege that our staff and student panel members really enjoy. It makes us the custodians of the medical school, gatekeeping passage into our community. Our panels include staff and students, and every panel member has an equal say (and we don’t always agree!). We have about 20 minutes to interview each candidate and decide if we want to make them an offer. (more…)

Why study evolution? 

Dr Peter Sarkies explains how information hidden in the evolutionary history of life on Earth has helped illuminate new insights into gene regulation.


In today’s challenging funding environment, studying evolution – the long-term history of life on earth – might seem somewhat frivolous. How could studying evolution contribute to pressing issues such as human disease? Responding to this, biologists often use a famous quotation from Theodosius Dobzhansky:

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Whilst this quotation certainly sounds impressive, it’s by no means obvious exactly what Dobzhansky meant, let alone how it helps explain why the study of evolution is important.  To understand its significance, we need to look at the statement in a little more depth. (more…)

Capturing cells’ tiny messages: the emerging importance of extracellular vesicles in medicine

In this post, Dr Richard Kelwick explores exosomes – the tiny vesicles that may hold great therapeutic potential.


The adult human body is composed of around 30 trillion cells! That’s a lot of cells, and researchers are still figuring out the remarkable processes that govern how our cells are exquisitely organised into the complex tissues, organs and systems that make up our bodies. In order for our cells to co-ordinate and organise themselves correctly they need to be able to communicate with each other at the molecular level. Cells can communicate with each other using a variety of different ways, either by physically tugging on neighbouring cells, or by secreting proteins, hormones and many other types of signalling molecules. Cells can also send exosomes to each other. (more…)

My first year as a medical student

One year on from receiving her A-level results, Eva Tadros reflects on her first year of medical school. 


How did you feel when you opened your A-level results last year?

It was all such an incredible adrenaline rush, to be perfectly honest. I experienced a whole spectrum of emotions – anxious, excited, worried, thrilled and petrified – all at once! I had built up that moment in my head for so long and I had envisioned every possible scenario and every single way it could work out – how I’d feel if I actually got the grades and got into my dream university and how it’d feel if I didn’t and what steps I would take afterwards. It was a little exhausting waiting for results day for so long and then it’s a little underwhelming after you open them because you’re just like – okay so what’s next? (more…)

Can we trust the tobacco industry?

Image credit: Stanford Medical School

Originally published on Dr Nick Hopkinson’s blog and reproduced here with permission, this post looks at the Tobacco Industry’s dark history of appropriation and subversion of science.


It ain’t no new thing” sang Gil Scott Heron in 1972, condemning the appropriation of black culture by white recording artists. A recent research paper published in Tobacco Control throws light on Tobacco Industry appropriation and subversion of science. Their goal, to prevent or delay measures which reduce their ability to market products that are among the leading causes of death worldwide (1). (more…)

You don’t need to be a doctor to change healthcare

HELIX design studio

Healthcare and Design MSc student Peter White makes the case for why we need to think outside the box when it comes to innovation in healthcare.


Have you ever looked at something and thought, “how on earth did no-one invent that before?” You know the feeling. It’s the one you get while staring numbly at a copy of Harry Potter – all the while wondering how the idea of a boy who goes to school went unwritten for so long. It’s the one people probably had when the first guy rolled by with casters on the bottom of his chair. Even Facebook seems like such a simple idea in hindsight.

Forget happiness or sadness or the feeling of ‘it’s coming home’. It’s this constant ‘so close yet so far’ that’s the prevailing emotion in my life right now. A perpetual reminder that, yes, I’ll never be Mark Zuckerburg, or even a Google elf for that matter. All this is compounded by the fact that, according to my shiny laminated ID card, I’m supposed to be a healthcare design masters student at St Mary’s hospital in London, a building so old it seems to look down enviously at the geriatric ward within. (more…)

Hope for a hepatitis B cure: the cunning virus that is outsmarting scientists

For World Hepatitis Day, Dr Ana Ortega-Prieto explains why she switched her research focus from hepatitis C to hepatitis B – a virus that continues its global spread despite an available vaccine. 


When I first started to work on hepatitis C virus (HCV) for my PhD, the general conviction was that it was a dangerous pathogen with very unsuccessful treatments. In the past years, this has completely changed; patients used to endure one year of treatment with severe side effects, but can now expect just three months of treatment, which is generally well tolerated. The truly impressive part here is that treatment success went up from below 50% to well over 90%. This has triggered the World Health Organisation (WHO) to aim for the eradication of all viral hepatitis by 2030 – a very ambitious goal. (more…)

Putting the humanity back into medicine

medical humanites

Giskin Day makes the case for Imperial’s new Humanities, Philosophy and Law BSc – a pathway for medical students to combine the arts with medical science.  


This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, but there is another birthday worthy of celebration. In 1948, the term ‘medical humanities’ was first used. George Sarton, who coined the phrase, believed that increasing specialisation in science and medicine failed to provide the framework for understanding the intellectual context and human significance of scientific developments. Medical schools around the world are increasingly coming to the same conclusion and incorporating humanities into medical education. (more…)