British Pharmacological Society reveals the secrets of success for cutting edge research

Monday 15 December 2013, London UK: The British Pharmacological Society has announced the secrets of success for pioneering research along with the outcome of its annual ‘Putting UK Pharmacology on the Map’ vote. The vote selects sites of special scientific interest linked to achievements in pharmacology based on a ballot of MPs, peers and senior members of the scientific community.

On behalf of the Society, Andrew Miller MP revealed the names of the 2014 winning sites at a special parliamentary reception held this evening:

  • Marischal College, The University of Aberdeen: Hans Kosterlitz and John Hughes isolated the first brain endorphins and demonstrated their release from nerve endings in the brain, revealing how the body deals with pain, analgesia and addiction. Roger Pertwee’s team is a world-leader in cannabinoid research, and paved the way for pioneering work in cannabinoid-based medicines.
  • The Department of Pharmacology, the University of Edinburgh: Home to Sir John Gaddum and Marthe Vogt when they undertook their seminal research on neurotransmitters in the peripheral nervous system and the brain, which provided the basis of much modern psychopharmacology and improved our understanding of mental health.
  • The Department of Molecular & Clinical Pharmacology, the University of Liverpool: In addition to research into drug metabolism and interactions, the team also discovered the genetic risk factors for severe hypersensitivity drug reactions and provides world-class training to the next generation of drug safety scientists, many of whom are leaders in academia and industry.
  • Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, the University of Oxford: The birthplace of antibiotics, where Howard Florey, Ernst Chain, Norman Heatley and colleagues first extracted and isolated penicillin. This was rapidly followed by production of therapeutic doses, allowing in 1940 the treatment in quick succession of experimental mice and the first human patient, a policeman with an eye infection. Florey and Chain shared the 1945 Nobel Prize with Alexander Fleming.

The 2014 winners joined four sites announced last year:

  • AstraZeneca, Alderley Park
  • The James Black Foundation, King’s College London
  • The University of Strathclyde
  • Wadham College, The University of Oxford

“These sites of special pharmacological interest have made outstanding contributions to the discovery and development of medicines, and undeniably also to the health and economy of the UK. By learning from our rich history, we can ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of research,” comments Professor Humphrey Rang, President of the British Pharmacological Society.


What are the secrets of success?

To coincide with the announcement in parliament, the British Pharmacological Society has identified what it believes are the secrets of success for sites where cutting edge research is nurtured in the UK:

  • Team identity: successful sites have benefited from distinct identities, whether as standalone organizations or working within much larger universities or companies.
  • Leadership: the achievements of these sites can often be traced to the effectiveness of their charismatic, imaginative and determined leaders.
  • Adequate resources: while team of scientists have been able historically to work creatively within limitations, confidence in the longer-term availability of resources, including funding, has proved important.
  • Championing talent: successful sites have attracted and developed skilled scientists.

“The UK has been a world-leader in medicines research and development, but recent changes have put this position under threat. Where are the next breakthroughs going to come from? There are obvious similarities in the sites that have been successful in the Putting UK Pharmacology on the Map vote for the last two years. I hope these will be encouraged by team leaders, employers, funders and policy-makers in order to nurture future breakthroughs,” adds Professor Rang.