Government Ministerial Visit
The RT Hon Lord Henley
On Friday 1st March, SBRC-Nottingham was on its best behaviour as host to VIP visitor Lord Henley.
Oliver Michael Robert Eden, or Lord Henley, is a British hereditary peer and politician, who is a Conservative member of the House of Lords. He serves as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and as such is our ministerial champion for synthetic biology.
In the short time available, our aim was to explain to him that synthetic biology is important for the UK’s economy and that the research done in SBRC-Nottingham is not only academically world-leading but also has clear health, environment and industrial benefits; in the hope that he might be able to influence future UK synbio funding decisions.
Lord Henley’s visit began with a high tech tour of the gas fermentation suite by Alberto Robazzi and robotic suite, overseen by Magda Jonczyk. He then moved on to meet some of our researchers to better understand some of the work we do.
We first introduced Lord Henley to the global clinical and economic impact of C. difficile. The fundamental problems of antibiotic therapy, and the ways in which we are trying to develop alternatives through our research with the gut microbiota and bacteriophages.
He was keen about the idea of alternatives to antibiotics, due to the problem of resistance and particularly interested in bacteriophage therapy and how the advent of antibiotics resulted in a decline of interest in bacteriophages.
We feel that we made a good impression on him, that our research is worthwhile and his enthusiasm for science, asking questions, left a good impression on us.
During Lord Henley’s visit, Callum McGregor and myself presented a poster on work on biopolymer synthesis from waste gasses. Callum presented our general strategy at the SBRC regarding the use of waste gasses from different sources and their conversion into valuable products using “gas eating” bacteria that accumulate large quantities of biopolimers, growing on CO2 and H2 as sole sources of carbon and energy.
I further described to him one of our flagship H2020 EU projects in which our role is to engineer strains and develop mixotrophic feeding strategies to produce alternative polymers using CO2 and volatile fatty acids derived from anaerobic digester. He told us that he, at some point in his career, was a minister for waste management. Later on, he asked me about my accent and my name, I explained that my name is Hungarian, but I’m originally from Transylvania, Romania and I belong to the Hungarian minority from an area that once was part of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. He then asked for how long I lived in the UK, and I said for 16 years. He smiled and thanked us for our time and told us to be optimistic about the future.