The University of Glasgow this week welcomed a delegation of politicians to the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre at the Garscube Campus to showcase the cutting-edge research taking place in the School of Cancer Sciences and the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research.
Local Member of Parliament for the Garscube Campus, Amy Callaghan MP, led the delegation and was joined by Stephen Flynn, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons, Stephen Flynn MP, as well as Deputy Leader of East Dunbartonshire Council, Cllr Calum Smith, and local Councillor for Garscube, Cllr Ian Gallagher.
As a cancer survivor and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children, Teenagers and Young Adults with Cancer in Westminster, Amy Callaghan has been an advocate for the importance of funding cancer research in the UK, and specifically at the Garscube campus in her constituency.
As part of a fact-finding mission at the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, the delegation met with leading researchers, who gave an insight into the work they are doing with support of partners such as Cancer Research UK and the Chief Scientist’s Office to improve survivability and experience of cancer patients.
The group met with Professor Ross Cagan, Regius Chair of Precision Medicine, to hear about the work of the McNab Centre for Cancer Innovation and his group’s development of highly complex, whole animal models for cancer and inherited genetic diseases.
Professor Cagan also discussed his work with Professor Lee Cronin, founder of the University of Glasgow spinout Chemify, which recently raised $43 million from Series A investment funding and the UK Government’s Levelling Up – Innovation Accelerator fund.
Professor Cronin’s pioneering research spans the digitisation of chemistry including the use of artificial intelligence in chemistry to explore chemical space – the trillions of possible combinations of natural elements.
Chemify can help reduce the amount of costly and time-consuming experimentation required to discover promising new molecules, speeding up their development as products to underpin advances in farming, materials science, green energy, and medicine – which could include new treatments for cancer.
The delegation also met with Professor Nigel Jamieson to learn about his spatial transcriptomics programme: a groundbreaking new approach to pathology which allows scientists to measure all the gene and cell activity in a tumour sample and map where the activity is taking place and how different cells are signalling to each other.
Using these advanced methods allows Professor Jamieson and his team to create an ‘atlas’ of a patient’s tumour, which can be analysed for patterns, and it is hoped in time this will lead to greater understanding of how cancer cells act in the body and interact with healthy cells. As a clinician he hopes that this spatial information will enable treatments to be targeted to patients who are most likely to benefit.
The visit also provided the opportunity for the delegation to meet Professor Gareth Inman, Director of Research for the School of Cancer Sciences, to hear about the integrated cancer research ecosystem stretching across Glasgow, the West of Scotland and beyond. The University’s ‘triple helix’ approach to working in partnership with the NHS, industry and academic partners across Scotland is bringing benefits to cancer patients in real-time, translating the world class science taking place in the School of Cancer Sciences and the Beatson Institute into applications for use in clinical trials and in clinical settings.
The delegation was keen to hear more about Glasgow’s ambitions to tackle the most pressing health challenges facing Scotland, and welcomed the work being done within the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences and through the Precision Medicine Living Laboratory.
On visiting the University, Amy Callaghan MP said: “The Beatson Institute and Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre are at the forefront of pioneering research. They put East Dunbartonshire on the map in our fight to beat cancer.”
Leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, Stephen Flynn MP added: “Scotland has a thriving research sector and right at the forefront are the world-class Wolfson & Beatson institutes.
“It was a pleasure to see firsthand the state-of-the-art facilities onsite and all our thanks should go to those involved in this world-class, important research.”
The delegation wrapped up their visit by meeting with PhD student in the McNab Lab, Bjork Aston, who gave a demonstration of her fruit fly models. They also spent some time in the lab meeting a group of Professor Nigel Jamieson’s PhD students leading work on transcriptomics.