The VALIDATE 2nd Annual Meeting kicked off with a one-day ‘Post-doc’ing for Success’ pre-meeting workshop on 5th November for our Early Career Researchers. 19 VALIDATE members attended, including MSc and PhD students, Research Assistants and post-docs. The workshop started with a talk about ‘Managing Yourself for Success’ by VALIDATE Network Manager Sam Vermaak, working with her 2nd job hat on as a Business and Personal Coach. Sam discussed how to cope with the stresses of working in academia, the importance of mental health and healthy mental habits, how to take charge of your career, and the support and opportunities out there to do so including the many available via VALIDATE.
Next Dr Martin Broadstock from the MRC spoke about ‘How to win funds and influence panels’ giving invaluable tips and advice on grant writing, followed by a talk to inspire our ECRs to become great leaders of the future by Prof Max Stephenson Jr from Virginia Tech ‘Exploring leadership as ethical practice: the role of imagination and wonder’.
After lunch, a panel of senior VALIDATE members from different science career paths discussed their careers – challenges they’ve faced in science and how they overcame them, the choices they made and why, and how they got to the successful positions they’re in now. Chaired by Prof Helen Fletcher (LSHTM and VALIDATE Co-Director), with Dr Bernardo Villarreal-Ramos (APHA and VALIDATE NMB member), Assoc Prof Narisara Chantratita (Mahidol University), and Dr Martin Broadstock (MRC), the panel were open and honest about their successes and failures, how they balanced their work and personal lives, and many of our ECRs commented afterwards how inspiring they had found this session.
Next Dr Rebecca Powell-Doherty spoke about ‘Impressing your peers: asking intelligent questions at conferences and seminars’, offering guidance to those ECRs who are nervous about speaking up at conferences – and then our ECRs got the chance to practise this skill during the four turbo talks given by ECR members Dr Amanda Gibson (Royal Veterinary College), Dr Jomien Mouton (Stellenbosch University), Dr Eduardo Ramos Sanchez (Universidade de São Paulo) and Dr Rachel Tanner (University of Oxford), all of whom provided interesting overviews of their research and future research plans. The day was rounded off with a tasty dinner in York city centre, giving our ECRs a chance to network further amid the rather grand historic Regency Assembly Rooms that now house Ask Italian!
The morning of the 6th we ran some parallel sessions ahead of the main meeting, with our ECRs having the chance to take part in some fun networking sessions to start to build new collaborative relationships with their peers, while VALIDATE Research Data Analyst Dr Deniz Cizmeci met with members in a data drop-in session. Some of our mentors and mentees took this opportunity to meet in person, and the NMB held their 10th meeting.
After lunch, the main 2nd Annual Meeting began with VALIDATE Director Prof Helen McShane giving the welcoming address. Dr Deniz Cizmeci then updated members on the VALIDATE Data Portal - launching soon! – where members will be able to store and access published and unpublished data (with the original owners permission) to accelerate R&D for vaccines for our focus pathogens, for example by comparing similar data-sets across species, pathogen, or country. Sam Vermaak then gave a quick overview of VALIDATE’s first year, which has been extremely busy, as well as sign-posting what lies ahead in year 2, including our 3rd round of pump-priming funding.
Prof Heidi Larson (LSHTM) followed, with a fascinating talk on vaccine hesitancy, an area VALIDATE feels is of increasing importance in the world today, discussing ‘building trust, managing risk: addressing vaccine hesitancy.’ Next came the first of our Round 1 pump-priming project talks, with Dr Bernardo Villarreal-Ramos (APHA) updating on ‘Natural variation of the bovine lymph node microenvironment and its possible effect on BCG immunogenicity’, Asst Prof Delia Boccia (LSHTM) on ‘Enhancing BCG efficacy: the Social Technology Lab Initiative’ and Dr Panjaporn Chaichana (MORU) on ‘Establishment of a functional assay panel to evaluate the role of antibodies in defence against melioidosis and tuberculosis’.
After a break, our other three Round 1 projects updated members on their progress over the last 10 months, with Dr Rajko Reljic (SGUL; ‘Overcoming innate immune tolerance in the respiratory tract for optimal vaccine design’), Dr Isadora dos Santos Lima (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation; ‘The effect of BCG vaccination in immune responses against visceral leishmaniasis in a natural (canine) model of infection’), and Asst Prof Steven Smith (LSHTM) and Titular Prof Javier Sánchez-García (Instituto Politécnico Nacional) on ‘How do functional and metabolic characteristics of trained monocytes affect their anti-bacterial activity?’ Our projects have all made great strides over the last year and we greatly look forward to their final results in early 2019. The session was rounded off by the first of our Round 2 pump-priming project turbo talks; these projects are recently funded so the talks were to inform delegates about each team’s research plans. Asst Prof Louise Gourlay (Università degli Studi di Milano) started us off with ‘In vivo protection studies of chimeric Burkholderia pseudomallei antigens presenting multiple epitopes on protein scaffolds and outer membrane vesicles’.
After so many interesting talks, we got the delegates out of their seats for an animated speed-dating networking session aiming to get delegates talking to each other, finding out about each other’s research, making new connections, and forming new collaborations and research project ideas. This led on to a poster session by our Industry partners (highlighting these partners and their research experience and expertise to our other members), and our Early Career Researchers – rather than showcasing a particular project, the ECR posters showcased the ECR, their research, and their future career and research plans and ambitions, again to facilitate and spark new collaborative relationships amongst our members. Everyone then relaxed and continued chatting over a delicious conference dinner.
Wednesday 7th saw talks from our other two Round 2 pump-priming projects, with Mohamed Osman (University of York) on ‘Identification of Leishmania donovani and Mycobacterium tuberculosis- derived proteins on the surface of infected macrophages that are associated with ADCC induction’, followed by Prof Susie Dunachie (University of Oxford ) and Asst Prof Jackie Cliff (LSHTM) on ‘Vaccines to target people with diabetes: characterising the pathways of immune response to M.tuberculosis and B.pseudomallei in people with diabetes compared to non-diabetics’. We then braved a brief gap in the British rain for a quick group photo outdoors!
The final session of the meeting was an Ideas Laboratory. This externally facilitated session aimed to help our delegates think big to tackle vaccine development for our focus pathogens – what breakthroughs need to be achieved, what challenges need to be overcome, what do we need to start/stop/continue doing to achieve success? The room buzzed with energy as people swapped table groups regularly to exchange ideas, gradually building up to concrete research project concepts that everyone worked collaboratively on to develop further. There were some great ideas, and we look forward with excited anticipation to the pump-priming grant applications that come out of this session.
Altogether the 2nd Annual Meeting brought our 64 delegates together to brainstorm on how we can develop vaccines against our focus pathogens more quickly and effectively. The event encompassed a great collaborative atmosphere, a high energy buzz, interesting research and talks, and gave everyone a chance to meet in person, exchange ideas and research insights, meet new people with shared research interests, and form new collaborations and ideas that will move our field forwards in the future.
Our 2019 3rd Annual Meeting will run in conjunction with an open scientific conference (these will be held 1-3 October 2019), and a 2nd ECR workshop (30 Sept), so hold these dates in your diaries!
Take a look at some video clips from the Annual Meeting and Workshop, and what our members had to say about the events!
All photos taken at both events can be seen here using the password validate061118.
Slides from some of the presentations given at the ECR Workshop and Annual Meeting can be accessed via our Document Library on Weblearn - if you have issues accessing WebLearn send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.