We spoke to Dr. Kelly Blacklock, a senior lecturer at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies who is currently developing models of cancer metastasis, about how the University of Edinburgh, the Postdocs to Innovators (p2i) Online Course and the DDE programme are supporting her goal of developing new cancer treatment options for animals and humans.
I work at the vet school as a senior lecturer in surgery and a lot of my caseload is cancer related. We have a big oncology department, so we provide chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and lots of additional treatments for pets with lots of different types of cancer. In the clinic, we see many similarities between cancers in animals and those in humans and I want to find out if these similarities are on a genetic level. If they are, this could have a big impact on treatments.
We have many successful treatments for cancer, but the goal is always to do better. Success for me means being able to reduce the number of aggressive surgeries when achieving a cure for our patients. To do that, you need to understand why the cancer is happening and how it's progressing. You need to understand the enemy to be able to defeat it.
There is a commercial side to the research and lots of potential there. But there is also a side of the entrepreneurial spirit that really appeals to me. This struck home when I saw an interview with a man who said when he comes into work, he only knows what he’s doing 30 percent of the time. Although this seems unusual, he was happy because it meant he was pushing boundaries.
Something I found great about the p2i course was the emphasis on the fact that you don't need to understand the whole ‘data’ journey initially, all you need is a destination. This is especially important for me in respect to data. I know the question I want to answer and while I can’t do it myself, I know who can help me. We're fortunate that we've got some fantastic statisticians and bioinformaticians who’re well versed with the analysis of data generated from cancer tissue. They can see the question and help you along the right path to find the answer.
My first motivation for joining the University was to work with a diverse group of people who are very smart and have a huge range of skills. Now that I’m here, the entrepreneurial opportunities offered through the likes of the DDE programme have been fantastic, and really helped get things off the ground. The p2i course which I was able to take part in through the DDE programme has taught me a lot about networking, and its value, and collaboration. You can’t do it all on your own, it’s about team building and making the right connections.
The next step is to secure more funding to take the model forward and the p2i course has been so helpful in doing this by providing advice and ideas about developing a pitch as well as writing grant applications.
Want to learn more about the p2i Online Course, click below to head to their website.