Dr Paul Wright is a FLIER participant and Principal Scientist at LifeArc, a charity that aims to develop treatments and diagnostic tests from promising science. Here he tells us what he has learned on the FLIER programme and his hopes for the future.
Q: What issue in health research do you want to take on and why?
A: The issue I am passionate about is how we can direct amazing research towards something that benefits patients and society. As neuroscientist, I know there is an unmet and growing need in many neurological conditions, such as motor neuron disease and pain. However, the underlying biology is incredibly challenging. We will only be able to help patients by working together using diverse skills and technologies. Creating and developing broad collaborations across the life sciences sector has been an important theme of FLIER.
Q: What have you learnt on the FLIER programme and how are you putting it into practice?
A: One key thing is knowing what kind of leader I want to be. The programme has challenged me to think about what is important to me and how I can achieve this. This has been particularly relevant over the last 18 months as we adapted to COVID-19.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: To think more broadly beyond the areas I am working in and think about ‘what do I need’ to answer questions rather than ‘what do I have’. To challenge myself to seek collaborations outside my day job. Even if things don’t work out, challenging usual way of thinking creates lots of unexpected opportunities.
Q: What are your hopes for the future in your work?
A: To be able to make an impact in patients’ life with safe and effective treatments for debilitating neurological disorders. This is of course hugely difficult. We need ways of identifying patients at risk and finding ways of diagnosing earlier. This will give us a better chance of finding therapies that make a difference to patients’ lives. We will likely use pharmaceutical interventions alongside digital or lifestyle therapies. This can only be achieved by building cross-sector collaborations. Hopefully, we can not only share resources and data, but also challenge traditional ways of thinking by talking to different groups. This, I believe, will ultimately be for the benefit of patients.
Dr Paul Wright is a participant in Round 2 of the Academy of Medical Sciences’ FLIER programme, a unique programme that will develop leaders of the future who can create collaborations across academia, industry, the NHS and government to drive innovation.
The FLIER programme is generously supported by the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation and the Government Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ‘Investment in Research Talent’ fund. You can find out more about our funding model and explore our donors here, or visit our Support Us webpage to explore ways to help our work.