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What is a Scientific Officer, and what exactly do they do? This was the complex question I had to address on my first day with Findacure almost two months ago. In the intervening time I’ve spoken to a vast number of people, including patients, clinicians, academics, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, funding bodies, trustees, and, of course, the one and only Nick Sireau. I’ve had over twenty five calls, and fifteen meetings with people outside the core Findacure team to discuss our work and projects, and attended my first patient workshop (where I exhibited questionable skills in microphone operation, and some exceptionally enthusiastic expressions). Though I’ve really enjoyed my work so far, and been overwhelmed by people’s positive response to Findacure’s work and goals, it’s only now that I’ve started to try and clearly define my role.

A Scientific Officer’s job is not to try and ‘know all the science’ – this would be a terrifying task in the world of fundamental diseases! Instead it is to be the scientific face of Findacure – always ready to engage with research and scientists, and to help promote and facilitate work that will deliver a benefit to the lives of rare disease patients.

My main project, developing Findacure’s drug repurposing programme, aims to do just this. We’re hoping in time to be able to identify a number of generic drugs that have the potential to treat rare diseases, and set up and run clinical trials to test their effect on those diseases. For the past two months I’ve been working to develop Findacure’s Social Impact Bond model (click on diagram to the right), and have begun to target funding sources for our work. We’ve also been compiling a number of repurposing criteria to help us to identify the types of projects that we’d like to take forward. With these in place, I’ll now start to focus on identifying specific repurposing projects. If you have any ideas for generic drugs that could benefit a particular fundamental disease, do let me know so that we can look into your proposal.

To further promote our repurposing work, and generate ideas and new collaborations, I’ve also been organising a networking event on drug repurposing in rare diseases, to be held here in Cambridge, on the 20th of August. We want to use this event to bring patient groups, clinicians, academics, and pharmaceutical companies together to discuss how repurposing can help to deliver new treatments to rare disease patients, faster. If you are interested in attending you can sign up here, or contact me for more information via [email protected].

It has been a brilliant first two months with Findacure, and we have a lot of exciting projects to come in the future. Thanks to everyone who has spoken to me and helped me so far. I look forward to meeting more of you in the future as our projects develop.

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