Professor Chris Lowe welcomed back one of his former PhD students, Dr Darrin Disley, who gave a talk to the Department on careers in the post-genomic age. Darrin is the CEO of Horizon Discovery Group plc, the top UK translational genomics company developing and supplying patient-relevant drug discovery and diagnostic reference standards. He is also an entrepreneur and angel investor, who recently won the Queen's Award for enterprise promotion and invested $150,000 in Footprint Cafes, a social venture setting up the world's first chain of sustainable cafes.
Darrin gave a hugely inspirational talk focusing on the impact of new biology with personalised medicine at the forefront of the healthcare of the future as well as career paths available to engineers and scientists.
He highlighted; ‘We live in a golden age of opportunity for researchers of all disciplines to come together and work collaboratively to solve the major challenges of the world like ageing populations, big data, clean energy, healthcare costs, economic growth, resource security and sustainability.
As the world population ages Cell and gene therapy were discussed as the future of healthcare and understanding the genetic “make-up” and thus “health” of nations deemed essential for effective social engineering and deploying of scarce resources.
Long-term healthcare solutions also require the tie in of the outputs of DNA sequencing, gene editing, cell, animal and tissue model studies with drug and companion diagnostic development to deliver drugs targeted to the drivers of disease as well as novel gene and cell therapies that revert the disease to a normalised state. ‘DNA sequencing is required to identify genetic drivers of cancer and many other diseases’; he added.
Darrin used examples from his own career and personal development and from his experience gained mentoring young entrepreneurs and he encouraged CEB students to put together their own business plan. Darrin emphasized; ‘Healthcare solutions require scientists’ and engineers’ abilities to worth with others. Developing personalised medicines certainly requires scientific and engineering skills’. ‘Understanding gene repair mechanisms and genetic modelling is key to drug discovery and development. There are opportunities that exist for engineers and scientists in the academic, not-for-profit and industrial sectors to make a difference and have a positive impact and solve big society’s problems'.; he added.
Darrin noted a further challenge: linking patient data with diagnosticians and drug reimbursement models to enable a more networked and consumer-driven approach to medicine. Darrin called not only for a multidisciplinary approach to science and engineering but for a sustainable model of growth, which is required so as to keep living standards in the face of aging population. Horizon Discovery’s technology has created ‘adaptive’ medicine to help the patients now though cell therapy to offering state of the art personalised treatment of individual diseases and gene therapy to cure patients with rare disease. He concluded;‘This is the future of healthcare. The issue is affordability of healthcare, technology is the answer and understanding genetic drivers is key for early diagnosis and effective treatment’.
See more on Horizon Discovery on www.horizondiscovery.com/about-us/careers