Dual-use for Dummies

Dr Supatra Marsh, BBSRC Policy Fellow at the Society of Biology, is organising Policy Lates: Dodging a biological bullet – what can we learn from the US and Europe about Biosecurity?


Dr Supatra Marsh

During my BBSRC science policy fellowship at the Society of Biology I have been organising the next Policy Lates event focussing on dual-use research. Just in case there are any of you out there that are asking the question ‘what is dual-use research?’ I have tried to write a beginner’s guide to dual-use and biosecurity; dual-use for dummies if you will!

According to the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) in the United States, dual-use or dual-use research of concern (DURC) is defined as “research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied by others to pose a threat to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, the environment or material“ 1. In other words, the scientific research being done has a dual-use; the initial purpose of it being carried out in the first place – usually to benefit the public’s health or for the advancement of science – and also an unintended use such as bioterrorism. Read more »

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How do you know if a PhD is right for you?

Rudi Verspoor, a PhD student at the University of Liverpool shared his volunteering experiences, which convinced him to pursue a PhD, at the Life Sciences Careers conference in Liverpool. Further conferences will be taking place in London and Staffordshire later this month.RUDI

You might wonder what makes some students pursue a PhD and not others. At university, I studied a selfish genetic trait that makes males produce only female offspring. My university helped me to continue this study at PhD. But experiences outside my main university course also played a big role in my decision. Collecting wild salmon samples in Northern British Columbia and organising an expedition with class mates to study entomophagy (the eating of insects) in northern Benin, helped me decide that I wanted to pursue a PhD.  So how do you find the right experiences, to help you decide on your future? Read more »

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Get Up, Stand Up for Science!

Written by Dr Supatra Marsh, BBSRC Policy Fellow at the Society of Biology, founder of Art Neuro, and member of the Voice of Young Science network.

sense about scienceSense About Science is a charity that works to ensure science is reported accurately in the media. They hold many workshops including the ‘Standing up for Science’ media workshop for early career scientists that I was lucky enough to attend.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about science reporting in the media? The MMR scandal? All the things that supposedly cause or protect you from cancer? If I were to ask my fellow scientists this question I’m sure I would get a whole range of examples about how science has been misrepresented in the media.

At the ‘Standing up for Science’ media workshop we heard from three scientists who were very experienced in media engagement. To my surprise the whole panel were fighting the journalists’ corner and had a lot of good things to say about science reporting. We heard from Professor Malcolm Sperrin who talked positively about his engagement with the media. He explained that journalists do not intentionally want to get things wrong; they need, and want, to talk to scientists but if they cannot then that is when bad science reporting occurs. Scientists need to get better at engaging with journalists if we want to see science reported accurately in the media. Read more »

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Society of Biology visits Party Conferences

Dr Laura Bellingan FSB is Director of Science Policy at the Society of Biology.

PARTY CONFERENCEThis evening, the Society of Biology will host their Biology Week Reception at the House of Commons. This follows the Society’s experts’ participation in panel discussions, arranged by the Science Council, at the three main political party conferences this season.

Labour Party Conference

Dr Curtis Dobson, Director of the Medical Device Biology group and Enterprise Coordinator at University of Manchester, brought his first-hand experience of building a successful biotech business on the foundation of his basic neurobiology. Read more »

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Chemistry Nobel Winners are Asset to Biology

Amanda Hardy AMSB is schools and colleges officer at the Society of Biology. She writes about this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and its impact on biology.

Photograph: Stefan W Hell/Division of Optical Nanoscopy/German Cancer Research Center

Photograph: Stefan W Hell/Division of Optical Nanoscopy/German Cancer Research Center

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”. All three scientists trained as physicists. Through their work at the interface of physics with chemistry, they have created a microscope which enables living processes to be followed in ‘nanoscopic’ detail. (A nanometre is one thousand-millionth of a metre.)

Previously it was thought that light microscopes had reached the limits of resolution with smaller objects being impossible to study in this way.  It was assumed objects could only be seen if they were at least the same size as the wavelength of light used to illuminate them. This is important as molecules are too small to be seen using normal visible light, even large biological molecules such as proteins had to be studied by other methods. Proteins and the constituents of cells can be studied in great detail using scanning electron microscopy, this uses electrons to ‘illuminate’ the sample and creates black and white images with intricate detail now familiar to people from electron micrographs of viruses and bacteria occasionally published in the media. Read more »

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Malaria control drains financial and human resources

Professor Robert Sinden is head of malaria cell biology at The Jenner Institute, University of Oxford. He will be speaking at the Biology Week Debate: ‘Malaria eradication – Can we do it? Should we do it?’ at the Royal Institution on Thursday 16th October.

sindenTogether with HIV and tuberculosis, malaria imposes one of the highest health burdens on mankind. We must keep eradication as the key driver of our research.

There are an estimated 25 species of malaria parasites described in primates. Around five of these species can infect humans, and all of these species are transmitted by 30-40 mosquito species. The majority of human disease and deaths are caused by just two species P.falciparum and P.vivax.

In the 19th century half the world’s population were at risk of malaria and 1:10 died of the infection. In the 20th century, technologies targeting the mosquito vectors, such as housing improvements, bed nets, and insecticides e.g. DDT, along with anti-parasitic drugs such as chloroquine, have reduced global malaria deaths outside of Africa by ~99%.

There are concerns surrounding the emergence of drug and insecticide resistance or avoidance that affects both the parasite and vector (e.g mosquitos). Currently there are significant advances in the discovery of new targets for chemical and biological attack and these new methods could lead to the eradication of these two important parasite species if applied rationally. Read more »

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Practical skills set job candidates apart at AstraZeneca

Donna Watkin is the Global Graduate Programme Manager at AstraZeneca, where she is responsible for the recruitment of biology graduates.donna

At AstraZeneca we recruit from a broad range of chemical and biological disciplines – we look for much more than whether job candidates have a relevant degree title. In order to be successful in our organisation it is critical that graduates have the appropriate practical skills to be successful in industry and this is a big challenge for us in terms of recruitment.

Our IMED Graduate Programme has recently been developed and we have a large number and range of placements at any one time. This two year graduate programme allows new recruits to join with no specific job focus, as we encourage young scientists to explore different areas before deciding which path they should pursue. Read more »

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How green is your routine?

Ahead of the Natural Capital Initiative summit Valuing our Life Support Systems in London this November, Jules Pretty FSB, Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex, explores the links between our health and the environment.

prettyPhysical activity improves both mental and physical health, yet annually inactivity results in 1.9 million deaths worldwide annually, roughly 1 in 25 of all deaths.

Individual energy expenditure has fallen dramatically over the past half-century. Inactivity increases the likelihood of obesity, and is a key risk factor in many chronic diseases of later life. Individuals who do not engage in regular physical activity have a 20-30% increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD): in the UK, CVD accounts for 39% of all deaths (193,000 per year). The World Health Organisation estimates that 80% of all CVD deaths are preventable.

The term green exercise was coined to indicate the synergistic well-being benefits arising from activity in green places. We have shown that a “dose of nature” has a positive effect on mental health for a wide range of activities (e.g. walking, angling, cycling, gardening), for all age groups, for every habitat (with additional benefits from the presence of water), and for the already healthy and the mentally-ill. Forest bathing (walking) in Japan reduces blood pressure and salivary cortisol, with greater benefits for the elderly and those already with high blood pressure and other stress markers. Read more »

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