The 2nd European Conference of Life Science Funders and Foundations, being held on 19 - 20 April 2018 in Heidelberg, will explore opportunities to positively influence and accelerate the necessary discoveries and their transformation into applications that benefit us all. We asked Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar for his thoughts on the upcoming meeting.
(Photo Credit: Wellcome Trust)
What do you think the public view is in general on life science research? How can we improve it?
The public is still enthused by science and the life sciences, but we have to work harder to engage with them given the competition for people’s attention. We shouldn’t take people’s trust in science for granted, we’re always looking at how we can we can make science relevant and exciting for the public, whether that’s through art at the Wellcome Collection, our Image Awards or funding computer games that communicate scientific ideas in a less traditional way.
What are the goals of the meeting? What is the outcome you hope to have achieved after everyone leaves Heidelberg?
The world is facing problems that cross borders, continents and nationalities. Europe is well placed to bring a collective voice and action to tackle health challenges that affect us here and in the rest of the world. This is a great time to bring people together to find the ideas and partnerships that could create real and tangible solutions. We’ve brought together a diverse group of people to see what different perspectives can achieve. I’d like people to leave feeling that Europe has a critical role in solving these global challenges and to have met a potential partner organisation to try something different.
What are the ways that life science is funded? What has been successful in the past and what do you see for the future?
The public, private and charitable sectors all contribute to the diversity of funding needed to allow great ideas to thrive. Each brings something different, finding the ways that our funding can complement each other plays to our respective strengths. CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, shows how governments, foundations and companies can combine their resources to address infectious diseases that can affect some of the most vulnerable societies in the world.
How do you see big companies as well as individual people contributing to funding the life sciences?
We work with academia, philanthropy, business, governments and civil society around the world. Each of them have an important role in supporting the life sciences, whether that’s funding the basic science that drives discovery forward or the innovations that transform people’s lives. Big companies are a crucial part of the system, providing not just funding but knowledge and collaborative opportunities.
Is there anything that researchers can do to help improve the life science funding environment?
Researchers have a responsibility to communicate their work in a way that shows how science contributes to society. We need a ‘licence to operate’ from society, without which it is harder to secure not just the funding for new and emerging technology but also the educational and ethical conditions for science to thrive.