VOLUME 1 - ISSUE 3 - PHARMACOLOGY AT KING'S COLLEGE LONDON
Pharmacology is alive, well and thriving in SE1! Over the past 15 years, a successful series of mergers between Colleges of the University of London has resulted in the establishment of an impressive array of pharmacological expertise in one location - the Guy's Campus of King's College London. In the mid 1980s, the Departments of Pharmacology at Chelsea College and King's College merged under the banner of King's College London, while those at Guy's and St Thomas' came together as part of the newly created UMDS. In 1998, these two groups merged as the Division of Pharmacology within the GKT School of Biomedical Sciences (GKT stands for Guy's, King's & St Thomas', reflecting the illustrious past of the merging groups!). As part of the merger, the sale of property in Chelsea and Kensington provided sufficient funds to allow revitalisation of the Guy's Campus. New Hunt's House, in which the symposia for the December BPS meeting will be held, was built from scratch at a cost of some £45M and opened in 1999; the buildings of the old medical school in which the Harris and Anatomy lecture theatres are situated were refurbished at a cost of around £20M. This major building programme provided first class teaching and research facilities for the pharmacologists, the majority of whom were relocated to the Guy's Campus. The current Division of Pharmacology has a distinguished ancestry, and now has access to unrivalled facilities for future development.
The main role of the Division of Pharmacology is to design and deliver education and training in pharmacology to a broad range of students. First and foremost, we continue to offer an Honours BSc programme in pharmacology. The programme retains strong recruitment, but we are continually looking at ways of developing our programmes to meet current demands; thus, we have recently introduced a BSc degree in Pharmacology and Molecular Genomics that taps into the enormous depth of knowledge in drug action and molecular biology concentrated on the campus. In addition to pharmacology students, our course modules are chosen by a large number of students taking the Biomedical Sciences BSc - a flexible degree programme that allows students to choose course modules from those offered by the various Teaching Divisions within the School. We see this as a great opportunity to introduce a much wider range of students to the joys of pharmacology, and to attract a few new souls into the discipline along the way! Apart from the science students, we are involved in teaching pharmacology to students of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, and many of our staff members are involved in curriculum development in these subjects.
Postgraduate students are not neglected. The MSc in Pharmacology has a long and distinguished history and continues to attract between 12-20 students per year who wish to convert their first degree to a postgraduate qualification. Again, we are constantly looking to develop our postgraduate programmes to meet current needs. To this end, we recently introduced an MSc in Drug Discovery Skills in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry. The aim is to provide graduates with the skills considered essential for those intending to follow a career in drug discovery and development. The first cohort of students graduated this September (all passed!) and 5 out of the 8 have already taken up posts within the pharmaceutical sector. We are very grateful to AstraZeneca, GSK and Pfizer for providing bursaries for the students and for the general support provided by the pharmaceutical industry in helping us run the programme.
The Division has strong links with the pharmaceutical industry and interaction with industry pervades all aspects of our programmes. Industry experts contribute to our course modules at all levels. The extra-mural year is a very important component of the Pharmacology BSc degree, with around 20 students electing to take this opportunity each year, the majority within the pharmaceutical industry. One of our major interactions with industry has been in maintaining the provision of education and training in integrative pharmacology research techniques. The Guy's Campus possesses state-of-the-art BSU facilities, which, together with the broad expertise of our staff in this area, have meant that we can offer integrative pharmacology training and education to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. In recognition of this, we were one of two centres nationwide chosen to host in vivo training courses for undergraduate students selected from universities across the UK. These courses are funded by a range of companies and learned societies, and have been extremely successful. Talks are in progress to try and make this training available to a wider group of students.
The development of the Guy's Campus, and the relocation of pharmacologists and other biomedical scientists to one site, opened up exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary research. The College has established a number of Research Centres based on the current strengths of its researchers and on areas of future development. Members of the Division of Pharmacology carry out their research as members of one or more of these Research Centres and ensure that pharmacology remains an important element of these interdisciplinary research efforts. The main Research Centres with a strong input from pharmacologists are Neuroscience, Cardiovascular Biology & Medicine, Age-Related Diseases, Allergy & Asthma, and the Sackler Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences. The success of this approach is shown by the burgeoning research income generated each year; annual research income for the School of Biomedical Sciences is around £14M.
Since we last hosted the BPS ( Brighton, 1999), there have been some significant changes in staffing within the Division. Tragically, Robin Hoult died while on holiday in Spain. Robin was a great colleague and a valued member of the Division and we all miss his straight talking at Divisional meetings. There have also been a number of retirements - Bryan Robinson, Stephen Hart and John Tucker have all hung up their pipettes. Phil Moore decided to up anchor and sail to the Orient to become Head of Department in Singapore. We thank all of these for their contributions over the years and wish them well. We have also welcomed some new faces into the Division including Metin Avkiran, Maureen Docherty, Rose Lewanika, Dom Spina and Gill Sturman. The aim of all of us associated with pharmacology here is to ensure that pharmacology remains a vital component of teaching and research within King's College London, and that we continue to play our part in meeting the national need for innovative and skilled pharmacologists. First, however, we have the small task of mounting what we hope will be a highly successful meeting of the BPS - then we can enjoy a happy Christmas break!