By now, all BPS members must be only too well aware that this is the 75th Anniversary of the founding of our society. So the only question is, how many of our celebratory events that will be held both around the UK and at several international pharmacological meetings this year will you be attending?

If you haven’t yet delved into the 75th Anniversary Special Edition of the BJP then you really are missing a treat.

It’s a fantastic volume that contains a marvelous collection of reviews highlighting and putting into context the many significant contributions that members of our Society have made right across the spectrum of the discipline of pharmacology. Science is not only about experimental results and theories, it’s also about the personalities involved in making discoveries and the paths they took to make them and this comes across clearly in many of the reviews.

We do indeed have a fine history of which we can be proud. But, as Rod Flower writes in the 75th Anniversary Brochure, there are many challenges ahead and we must not be complacent.This topic has also been taken up by Patrick Vallance and Trevor Smart in their article on ‘The Future of Pharmacology’ in the 75th Anniversary Special Edition of the BJP. Patrick returned to this theme in his provocative address to the assembled guests at the Official 75th Anniversary Launch Event in London in January (a report of this event appears on page 5 of this issue of pA2 and copies of the speeches have been posted on the BPS web site). He challenged today’s pharmacologists about how they should see their roles in an ever-changing environment. His view is that we should consider the changing conditions we work in, in both academia and industry, both as challenges and as opportunities to promote pharmacology. The blurring of the boundaries between pharmacology and related disciplines, the re-emergence of an integrative approach in biology and the expansion of translational research provide exciting opportunities for pharmacologists.

At the end of his erudite article on the history of the Society in the 75th Anniversary Special Edition, Alan Cuthbert also turns his attention to the future of pharmacology. He suggests that ‘Some deep thinking and careful planning within the BPS Council will be needed’ to meet successfully the challenges ahead. Whilst it will certainly be Council’s role to see that the planning takes place, I would suggest that all of us in the BPS need to be involved in the deep thinking. Our Founding Fathers initially suggested creating a ‘pharmacology club’ but the term ‘club’ was soon changed to ‘society’. The Oxford Dictionary defines a society as ‘an association of persons united by a common aim or interest’. Within the BPS we should all wish to be involved in determining the future direction of our discipline.

In planning for the future we should consider whether there were failings in the past that might have been avoided. In his review of the ‘Pharmacology of Intracellular Signaling Pathways’, Steve Nahorski opines that the development of molecular pharmacology in the UK was blunted in the 1970s and 1980s by an unwillingness of pharmacologists to embrace new approaches, and that even today in the genomic/proteomic era we are not truly competitive.

You may disagree with Steve’s assessment or you may agree but wish to put the blame not, as he does, on the conservatism of UK pharmacologists, but on the under-funding of academic science during that period. Whatever, what we must do is position pharmacology in Britain in order that such a criticism will not again be leveled against it when our current and future activities are reviewed in 25 years time at our centenary.

Before anyone accuses me of being a heretic, traitor or troglodyte I would like to point out that in this, my first pA2 article as your President, I have been careful not to present too many of my own opinions but have highlighted the opinions expressed by eminent members in an attempt to initiate further discussion. I hope that you as members of the BPS will join in the debate about the future of pharmacology. What else are the pages of pA2 for?

On reflection, being a troglodyte might not be so bad. They didn’t have to cope with the burden of administration and paperwork that gets in the way of what we really love, the science.

Let’s get out there and celebrate!


Graeme Henderson