GE Healthcare Scientist Paired with Cardiff MP to Share Insights on Cell Therapy, Science and Policy-Making

15 Nov 2012
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Dr. Michelle Janas from GE Healthcare Life Sciences recently swapped a lab coat for legislation, when she visited Jenny Willott MP at the House of Commons for a “Week in Westminster” as part of a unique ‘pairing’ scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science.

Dr. Janas is a Lead Scientist at GE Healthcare’s laboratories in Cardiff, Wales, where she is part of the team pioneering new technologies for cell therapy. During her visit, she shadowed Ms Willott MP to learn about her work. She also attended a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee meeting and Prime Minister’s Question Time, and met with Professor Sir John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Advisor. The visit provided Dr. Janas with a behind-the-scenes insight into how science policy is formed as well as an understanding of the working life of an MP. Under the pairing scheme, Ms Willott will make a reciprocal visit to GE Healthcare.

Cell therapy, the use of cells to replace damaged tissue or treat disease, has the potential to help millions of patients suffering from life-threatening and life-limiting diseases like cancer and heart disease. Very much at the cutting edge of medicine, the UK Government recently announced a £50m investment into a new cell therapy technology innovation centre. GE Healthcare has established a global Centre of Excellence for Cell Technology Research at its facility in Cardiff, Wales.

Dr. Janas said: “I believe scientists have a role to play in helping to make innovations like cell therapy a reality through engagement with politicians and policy makers. It is exciting to be sharing my scientific experience with Ms Willott MP and I’m keen to further my understanding of how science policy is developed and communicated to the wider community.”

Jenny Willott MP said: “From participating in the scheme before, I know how rewarding and helpful it is to gain a different perspective. I look forward to learning about Dr. Janas’ work on cell therapy at her lab in Cardiff. I hope I will get a better understanding of how politics and research together can realize the potential of these new technologies to bring real benefits to patients.”

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society said: “We live in a world facing increasing challenges that can only be addressed with a clear understanding of science. From climate change to influenza outbreaks, GM food to nuclear power, our MPs have to make decisions about complex issues that will affect the lives of all those in the UK and, in many cases, more widely throughout the world. This means that MPs and scientists have a responsibility to engage with each other to get the best possible scientific advice into public policy making.”

The Royal Society’s MP-Scientist pairing scheme aims to build bridges between parliamentarians and some of the best scientists in the UK. It is an opportunity for MPs to become better informed about science issues and for scientists to understand how they can influence science policy. Over 200 pairs of scientists and MPs have taken part in the scheme since it was launched in 2001.

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