Alumni Relations News 2012
Alan Sawyer, EMBL, 1990
Alan's new home in London: boat on the Grand Union Canal with wife Nadia Rosenthal
Alan outside Paratopes Ltd.
It was the call for a practical mind that attracted Alan Sawyer to EMBL Heidelberg back in 1990. Alan joined EMBL as a technical assistant to do the antibody work (mono- and polyclonal) for Thomas Kreis’ and Eric Karsenti’s groups. In reality he ended up working for the whole Cell Biology Unit with additional projects for the Developmental Biology Unit.
“It was extremely enjoyable and always fascinating”, Alan recalls. “The nature of the job meant that I interacted with a huge number of scientists, getting to know their projects while gaining a broad overview of the science being carried out at the EMBL Units. Plenty of opportunities for practical projects too: I came up with a lab-side purchasing database for Eric's lab in 1990, which metastasised all over EMBL by 2001.”
Alan’s passion for antibodies and facilities led him to establish the Monoclonal Antibodies Core Facility (MACF) at EMBL in 2001, the Monash Antibody Technologies Facility (MATF) in Australia in 2008, and now Paratopes Ltd., a commercial version of EMBL MACF, in London.
Former EMBL Instrumentation postdoc Angus King will join Alan at Paratopes later this year, with plans for a technician to start by middle of next year. “The future looks healthy”, Alan told us. “We’d like to see the EMBL community using Paratopes and entrusting us with at least one project - naturally discretionary rates are available to all EMBL staff and alumni for the generation of their monoclonals.”
Asked to sum up EMBL based on his 23 years experience at the laboratory, Alan responded:
“EMBL is freedom. The opportunity to do science where the only real limit is one's imagination untrammelled by hierarchy, and facilitated by a fantastic, nimble administrative staff and infrastructure that free one up to explore and have fun doing the best science one can… ranging from the abstruse to clinically relevant, makes EMBL truly a centre of excellence and innovation. What I'll miss the most is the people and the energy they generate.”
Asked for a message to EMBLers Alan came up with three.
“To current EMBLers, I’d say - use this opportunity, it will never come again. To those about to leave I would say - prepare yourself for a shock, nothing really is ever as good as EMBL, and use the Alumni Association to stay in touch. To past EMBLers I'd say - stay in touch - I really miss all of you." EMBL has been a transformational experience for me, and I am proud and privileged to have been a part of this wonderful organization.”
Five things you may not know about Alan Sawyer:
1. He’s a musician: semi-professional classically trained counter-tenor and drum player.
2. A once Green party candidate for Winchester City Council in the UK with a deep and abiding passion for old British motorbikes.
3. Member of the Gastronauts, a club exclusive to former EMBLers who travel internationally to cook and drink the finest wines and to enjoy each other's company.
4. Together with Angus King, Alan famously drank one of the cafés in the Heidelberg Marktplatz completely out of Dom Perignon champagne.
5. Is perpetually certain that England will win the next world cup - making him the world's biggest optimist.
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