Stimulating the next generation: the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative

Monday, 20 October 2014

“Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here in Cambridge, UK, those words carry a little extra resonance this week, because two of the world’s most enthusiastic innovators are in town – Nobel Laureates, Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein. Their purpose? To inspire the next generation of talented young scientists.

Drs Brown and Goldstein have come to take part in the latest event from the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative (NPII), a global programme designed to connect students and researchers with Nobel Laureates. By giving them a platform to share their experience and insights, the Initiative brings Nobel Laureates into closer contact with the worldwide scientific community. It is organised in partnership with AstraZeneca and MedImmune.

The Cambridge event

The agenda for this week’s event covers a full two days, with Drs Brown and Goldstein participating in a series of lectures, Q&A sessions and discussion panels.

The pair bring with them more than 40 years of experience of working together – one of the most famous and enduring collaborations in science. Today, they jointly run the Brown/Goldstein Laboratory at the University of Texas Southwestern in the US.

Drs Brown and Goldstein were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1985, for their pioneering discoveries on the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. Their work is particularly inspiring for those of us involved in pharma, because it provided the scientific basis on which the development of statin lipid-lowering drugs was based; drugs which continue to save millions of lives around the world today.

The Cambridge event has an emphasis on promoting informal interactions with younger scientists. For example, a roundtable discussion on ‘Being a Scientist’ will bring 20 students and researchers into close contact with these two esteemed leaders of the field. Other lectures and panel discussions will have larger audiences, ensuring that the reach of the event is broad and inclusive. Topics will range from pure science (‘How cells sense sterols’) to more general discussions on the importance of cooperation (‘Collaboration and partnerships: what are the rules?’).

The AZ perspective

AstraZeneca is proud to partner with the Initiative wherever it goes, across the globe – and it has been to China, Brazil and Scandinavia already in 2014, for events involving the Nobel Laureates, Martin Chalfie, Tim Hunt, Roger Kornberg and Paul Nurse.

However, this week’s event is that bit more special for us, because it represents a sort of homecoming. In 2013, we confirmed that AstraZeneca’s new, UK-based global R&D centre and corporate headquarters will be located at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus to join our scientists from MedImmune, the global biologics arm of AstraZeneca, which has already had a presence in Cambridge for 25 years.

Why Cambridge? This week’s NPII event highlights exactly why AstraZeneca is so keen to be here: because the city offers access to world-leading scientific expertise, from both current and future generations. Sixteen Nobel prizes have already been awarded to scientists who were associated with the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, with more certain to follow in the coming years.

This city provides great opportunities for collaboration with renowned academic research institutions, pre-eminent hospitals and cutting-edge biotechnology companies.

To paraphrase Emerson, enthusiasm is the mother of effort and also the father of innovation. In Cambridge this week, we hope that the enthusiasm of the next generation of scientists will be stimulated to bring forward the biomedical innovations of the future.