As a relatively new conference, ON Helix is rapidly becoming established as the key event for translational research in the UK. With a focus on the life science sector, it explores how to turn early stage inventions and ideas into innovative health treatments and provides an ideal forum for industry leaders and experts to share their work and ideas in this rapidly developing area of research.
Today we spoke with Professor Nicholas Lemoine, one of the keynote speakers for this year’s ON Helix. Having completed a physiology degree, medical qualification, clinical training, and a PhD in molecular biology, Professor Lemoine became a group leader at Imperial College, and went on to became the first Clinical Scientist appointed by Cancer Research UK to develop research into molecular biology and cancer therapeutics. He now works as the Medical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network where his team conducts clinical trials in the NHS, for the NHS; Director of the Barts Cancer Institute in London; and Director of Research & Development for Cancer & Surgery at Barts Health NHS, the largest NHS trust in the UK. Ahead of his keynote at ON Helix, we asked Professor Lemoine a few questions:
Can you tell us a bit about what drove your interest in translational research?
I started my research at the start of the molecular revolution, at the beginning of the true understanding, diagnosis and treatment of human disease. Pancreatic cancer was always of particular interest to me, since due to its nature it is particularly hard to detect in its early stages, and just as challenging to treat. This highlighted the need to translate the discovery of malignancy drivers in order to enable early diagnosis and the development of novel therapeutics. Similar work was successfully being undertaken in parallel in other disease areas, which helped to demonstrate the results of this investment to the public (who essentially fund the research through taxes and charitable donations). It’s important that the public can see and understand that this research really makes an impact on the patients.
How do advances in translational science impact the research being undertaken at Barts Cancer Institute?
The Barts Cancer Institute is committed to translating basic discovery into tangible benefits for the population at risk of developing cancer. We take discovery from the lab and move it directly into early phase clinical trials – direct to the unmet clinical need, where we can see the impact on real problems, something that is very important to us as scientists and clinicians.
Have you attended ON Helix in the past? What made you decide to be a keynote speaker this year?
No I haven’t attended the conference in the past, but it looked like it provided a unique opportunity to network with a blend of academic and commercial leaders who are all making advances accessible to people in the real world.
Can you tell us a bit about what you plan to discuss in your keynote address at ON Helix?
Of course – without giving too much away, I plan to talk about harnessing the power of the NHS for clinical research and how the NIHR clinical research network can translate discovery to implementation in healthcare. My address will touch on the major global advances including the scope and scale of the clinical research network and how we provide direct access to patients for clinical studies. This will then be supported with some examples of where progress has been made to improve outcomes for diseases (infectious disease, cancer, etc)
What are you hoping to take away/learn from ON Helix?
I see it as providing a unique opportunity to learn from world leaders across the academic and commercial sectors – where there has been real translation from science to clinical impact.