Marking 20 years since Dr John Tregoning arrived at Imperial College London as a PhD student, he reflects on what he’s learnt over his career to date.
On 1 October 1999, I walked out of South Kensington tube station, fresh-faced and ready to start my PhD. 20 years later as I walk out of the same tube station to the same campus of the same university (still fresh-faced I like to think), the question is, have I learnt anything?
Spoiler alert – the answer is yes, but a guarded yes, from a staggeringly low starting point, like Marianas Trench low. Some of what I have learned is fairly niche and only useful if you work in a biomedical lab – like how to open a tightly screwed plastic tube with one hand whilst avoiding infecting yourself with influenza, some are a bit more generally applicable to having a career in science, especially if you are or want to run your own research group, and some grandiosely I think might be applicable to everyone.
Working in a university, this may be a bit unnecessary to point out, but education never ends: we are continually learning and evolving. Even if you were able to recall all the facts from school into adulthood it is likely that they are now either outdated or completely irrelevant to the work you do. We need to retrain: to become parents, to become managers, to change roles, to retire gracefully. And for these new roles, there is no pass/fail test to say how well you have done, it is all a bit woolly. So we need effective strategies to learn for life: both for ourselves and for the others – students, children, co-workers – that we might need to train. (more…)
Dr Malick Gibani unravels the mystery behind the role of typhoid toxin in causing typhoid fever – a disease that affects around 11 million people each year globally.
Salmonella Typhi is a fascinatingly complex bacterium. Whilst there are more than 2000 different (sero)types of Salmonella, there’s something special about Salmonella Typhi that sets it apart from the non-typhoidal Salmonella serovars. It causes different symptoms, the means of spread are different and the host it infects is different – specifically, Salmonella Typhi only causes disease in humans.
Understanding the mechanisms of how bacteria can cause disease is profoundly important for vaccine development. The Vi-antigen that forms the major component of injectable typhoid vaccines seems to have a key role in making the bacteria more virulent (hence the name). Vi-based vaccines have proven to be highly effective tools to prevent typhoid. (more…)
Dr John Tregoning takes us on a tour of vaccination’s greatest successes, explaining how this incredible human achievement works to keep us all safer from disease – as long as we keep vaccinating ourselves and our families.
Nature wants you dead. Not just you, but your children and unborn children and everyone you have ever met.
It wants you to cough and sneeze and poop yourself into an early grave. If it can, it wants you your blood vessels to burst and pustules to explode all over your body. Put simply, Nature is trying to kill you.
And until relatively recently, it was really good at doing this. The average life expectancy of a human in 1900 was 31 years. I should already be dead.
But then science intervened with two critical innovations, clean water and vaccines, and changed everything. Clean water has had the biggest impact, but vaccines are a close second. (more…)
On World Malaria Day, Dr Aubrey Cunnington’s daughter spends the day at his lab to learn how his team’s research is contributing to tackling malaria.
25 April is a special day in my calendar this year for two reasons. First, it is World Malaria Day – a chance for malaria researchers and many others to unite to raise awareness of this dreadful disease which kills over 400,000 people every year. Second, it is “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” for my 13-year old’s school, and she has chosen to spend the day with me at Imperial College London. I’m flattered but I’m also worried, because she can be my harshest critic, and on World Malaria Day I want to convince her (and everyone else) that my research is making a difference against malaria.
So what will it take to impress my 13-year old daughter, and perhaps give her the confidence and inspiration for a career? Looking for help, I ask my research team how they would explain their work to a 13-year old. Despite worried expressions, they are all up for giving it a go. (more…)
Ahead of the recent G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Professor Alison Holmes explained in an article for G20 Magazine why global collaboration is essential to minimising the impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on healthcare.
The world faces the unprecedented challenge of drug resistant infection due to increasing AMR. Concerted global action is needed to address this pressing and alarming public health issue. Without a strong, unified response, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be met, and valuable progress will be lost.
The need for leadership
The continued inclusion of AMR in the G20 agenda, under the leadership of Argentina, is greatly welcomed. This year I was invited to speak in Buenos Aires on initiatives to optimise antibiotic use, at the International Congress on Infectious Diseases, co-hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of Argentina. The ethos of shared learning and strong leadership was central in our discussions, and considered fundamental to effective action. (more…)
200 years on from the first successful human-to-human blood transfusion, this procedure has revolutionised patient care. However, there is still work to be done in sub-Saharan Africa, as Professor Kathryn Maitland explains.
Each year, around 2.5 million units of blood are transfused in the UK – that’s enough to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools! Since James Blundell performed the first successful human blood transfusion in 1818, this life-saving medical intervention has made many advances to ensure its accessed throughout the world. An important part of this is ensuring that any health system has adequate supplies of quality-assured and safe blood for transfusion through national and regional blood transfusion services (BTS). (more…)
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…)
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…)
Dr John Tregoning explains how the use of animals in science is properly regulated and why it’s so important to respiratory research, which could impact millions of lives.
Respiratory infection is one of the main causes of disease and death throughout the world, claiming 3 million deaths worldwide in 2016. The symptoms range from the mild (a runny nose) to the extremely serious (pneumonia, hospitalisation and respiratory failure). These infections have a large economic burden both directly in medical costs and indirectly in working days lost. They also represent a potential risk for causing major pandemics; one hundred years ago the 1918 flu outbreak led to the death of 50-100 million people, significantly more than the whole First World War. There is a clear need to understand why we get sick after respiratory infections and critically we need new drugs to reduce the burden of disease. For example, there is an urgent need for a new influenza vaccine that could prevent future pandemics. (more…)
As the human T-cell leukaemia virus is discussed on the world stage, Professor Graham Taylor addresses the misconceptions surrounding HTLV-1.
Based on the number of articles published in mainstream media, and the number of interview requests I have received in the last week, it seems that everyone wants to know about HTLV-1, the human T-cell leukaemia virus, after 30 years of turning a blind eye. Why the sudden interest in a virus that few outside my field of human retrovirology have heard of? (more…)