I was scrolling through Twitter one evening when I came across the line up for the WhyWeDoResearch Tweetfest 2017. An online event suitable for everyone, run through Twitter that increases understanding of ‘why we do research’. It looked like a great event, so I got in touch with the organiser Claire (@ClaireW_UK), to see if I could get involved. Claire got back to me really quickly and was keen to welcome me on board to the WhyWeDoResearch team as a chat host.
Chats are generally only an hour, so I decided to focus my chat on four main themes:
- What does lab based research involve?
- If we identify benefit in the lab how does that translate to people?
- As a researcher how might you move focus from lab based research to clinically based?
- What does the future hold for translational research?
From the outset, something that I had noticed was the real sense of community that the #WhyWeDoResearch campaign builds. There were several people introducing themselves and ready and waiting for my chat to start.
My first theme was based on discussing what is laboratory based research. Often when people think of laboratories they think back to their school days of Bunsen burners and white coats. But I want people to be aware that laboratory based research is far more than just Bunsen burners and white coats. As lab based researchers we study cells, proteins and viruses!
We then discussed how any benefit seen in the laboratory can be taken forward to patients. There was a lot of discussion around this area, as often potential drugs that show promise in the lab, don’t show the same results when they are tested in people. There was also lots of chat around the fact that this process can take a long time, often decades. Sometimes the exciting benefits shown in the lab can be taken out of proportion. Particularly in the case of diseases, where people are waiting for effective therapies, early treatments that show benefit in the lab are positive, but the results should be interpreted with caution.
As a researcher myself, I have moved from a pre-clinical laboratory based job to completing predominantly clinical research. This can be quite a hard transition to make. There was lots of discussion around this and I emphasised the importance of working with a great team. I am not a trained medic; therefore, I work with a fantastic team who allow me to carry out my clinical research.
In terms of the future for translational research, it is an exciting time. There seems to be an appreciation that we can learn a great deal from both laboratory and clinical research that they inform one another.
It was great to see so many people engage from a variety of different backgrounds. The questions that people were asking were brilliant and despite my concerns that I may not be able to answer everything the chat really was just that, a chat with lots of really interested and engaged people.
Before I knew it, my tweetchat was over! Thankfully, I had set a timer to remind me to post all my questions as time really does run away. Several people thanked me for hosting the chat and the volume of responses and questions that I had was great. I gained some new followers but most of all, I was tremendously proud that I had been able to get people thinking about research.
#WhyWeDoResearch …. because I want to make a difference to the lives of people living with Huntington’s disease.
In fact, I enjoyed my first Tweetchat so much that I will be holding another one on Monday 27th of November at 7pm! Please do come and join me then.