Category: SfAM Strategy

Postulating an exciting future

Earlier this month, the Society moved into our new headquarters (HQ) at Charles Darwin House, London and as I write this blog post, I’m sat at my desk, looking out over the rooftops of Bloomsbury. By moving our headquarters to London, we can continue to grow and prosper in a location better suited to our needs as a Society. The move to Charles Darwin House also enables us to continue to collaborate with other Learned Societies within the sector, many of whom are already based here on the premises. By placing ourselves at the heart of the science communication and policy communities, we will be able to pass on these benefits to our Members and the applied microbiology community at large, in a way that is both real and relevant. Here in London there’s a unique feeling of being amongst it, being part of something, and I’m certain as a Society we will thrive from the energy and drive of the UKs capital city.

Now that we’ve settled in, we can progress our work promoting Microbiology and its application and relevance to the lives of our members and non-members. We will do this through policy work – we’re currently advertising for a new Policy Officer, who will assist us in remaining informed and responsive at this important time in the political landscape. We are also increasing our resources in communications – we have appointed a new Press and Media Officer and he’ll be starting with us next month and will provide much needed support to our communications team.

And I’m delighted by the diversity of our events calendar: we have the following meetings coming up, including our EMI lecture: “Waging peace: establishment and maintenance of stable alliances between animals and their microbial partners” Professor Margaret McFall-Ngai is a pioneer and international leader in the field of animal–microbe interactions and her research into the relationship between a host and its microbiome continues to challenge traditional microbiological notions. On the same day, our Early Career Scientists (ECS) have organised their annual research conference, which this year carries the theme: Bioethics. This is always such an inspiring day, and to witness some of the science presented by our early career researchers is often a humbling experience. The final event of the year for the Society is the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) meeting. We are particularly proud to have Professor Dame Sally Davies as our Keynote speaker for this event, which will explore the important theme of “Finding solutions to a threat on worldwide public health”.

As well as our meetings and events, the breadth of our own journals, Journal of Applied Microbiology (JAM) and Letters in Applied Microbiology (LAM), means they are an excellent place for members and non-members alike, to find and publish cutting-edge research in this diverse field. I’d also encourage you to take a look at our Open Access journal, Microbial Biotechnology which recently published a special issue: Microbial Biotechnology-2020 where luminaries in the field were invited to propose a roadmap of routes, obstacles and solutions for the planet’s Grand Challenges, through microbial biotechnology.

The next few months will be a busy and exciting time for us here at the Society office – but do come and chat with the SfAM team at our new HQ, you’ll be very welcome. And if you can’t come and visit, then I hope to see some of you soon at one of our upcoming events.


Antimicrobial resistance: a continued global effort is needed

At the end of 2014, the first report from the O’Neill Review was published, spelling out the health and economic impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The second report, published last month, outlined specific actions needed to tackle this global threat. At the time of commissioning, David Cameron was quoted saying: “If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine”.

Although this does sound dramatic, the message remains: a continued global effort is needed to tackle AMR.

In the UK alone, there is now increasing activity involving scientists, clinicians, economists, politicians and the media who are all working to raise awareness and find solutions to this growing problem. The Longitude Prize is probably the highest profile from the point of view of raising awareness in the eyes of the general public. There are campaigns within the veterinary arena, and in general practice and acute care settings, promoting the stewardship of antibiotics in veterinary and human healthcare. Globally, microbiologists are looking for faster diagnostic tools and new antimicrobials, and they are meeting with increasing frequency to discuss this urgent issue.

I have anecdotal evidence from non-scientist family and friends demonstrating the effectiveness of the Longitude Prize in raising awareness of the ongoing threat of AMR. And in the US, at the time of writing this piece, a potential new class of antibiotic has been found to be effective against pathogens in mice, and early indications show it may be slow to develop resistance*. Although in the early stages of development, there is hope that this compound will become an effective antibiotic drug against human pathogens. So, although with caution, I think we can offer a glimmer of hope.

But the effort must continue and to that end SfAM is working with six other Learned Societies to enhance understanding and knowledge sharing on AMR between academia, industry and clinicians through the LeSPAR Network.

This network represents 75,000 scientists who have come together to lead the fight against AMR. The network aims to provide a single unified voice, take action and champion best practice, as well as raising awareness of the global challenge of AMR. Visit the SfAM website for the latest LeSPAR developments (

As I write, we have just embarked upon a Strategy Away Day and we are in the process of setting the Society’s aims and objectives for the future. Officials of the Society met for an intensive day-long event to really get to the bottom of who we are, who we want to be, what we want to be doing and how we want to be doing it.

We’ll be publishing our strategy in the coming months, so keep in touch to find out more about our priorities for the future. But of course AMR will remain a priority area for SfAM and we plan to make a contribution to this global challenge facing humanity.

*The above image shows the iChip in use – a new tool for culturing soil bacteria in the lab

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