Q&A with Dr Freya Harrison, member of the organising committee for Antimicrobial Drugs Discovery from Traditional and Historical Medicine

Posted on August 2, 2019   by Alex Kubiakowska

On 29 October, the Microbiology Society will be hosting the Antimicrobial Drug Discovery from Traditional and Historical Medicine Focused Meeting at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK. We spoke with one of the meeting organisers, Dr Freya Harrison, about what she is looking forward to at this pilot meeting and the importance of developing a cohesive research network.

What will this Focused Meeting cover and what makes it different from the other Focused Meetings?

We hope this meeting will be a chance for people working on different aspects of natural product antimicrobials to come together and share their areas of expertise. The main aim of the meeting is for delegates to build new collaborative connections in this area.

This is a pilot meeting aimed at facilitating a conversational and interactive workshop rather than a more traditional lecture-based Focused Meeting. Instead, we will have various short introductory talks, leaving plenty of time to discuss various approaches and interests.

Tell us more about how you hope to build a cohesive network for researchers within the field of traditional medicine?

We realised, partly through chance conversations whilst visiting the poster stands at the Microbiology Society Annual Conference 2019, that there were more people working in this area than we initially thought. Unfortunately, we didn't necessarily know much about each others’ work.

Given this fragmented expertise, and the pressing need to develop new antimicrobial treatments, we thought the time was right to get people together and assess exactly what capacity we have for mining traditional sources of antimicrobial compounds. Asian and South American countries are light years ahead of Europe in integrating traditional medical knowledge and materials into modern drug discovery work, and it’s time for us to catch up.

Who organised the meeting and why?

The organising committee comprises three microbiologists - Rowena Jenkins, Lori Snyder, myself, Freya Harrison and an analytical chemist, Olivia Corcoran.

Rowena is a Lecturer in Microbiology and Infectious Disease in the College of Medicine at Swansea University, UK. She is also a member of the Communications Committee at the Microbiology Society.

Lori is an Associate Professor in the School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy and Chemistry at Kingston University, UK. She is also a member of the Microbiology Society’s Prokaryotic division.

Freya is an Associate Professor at the School of Life Sciences at Warwick University, UK and a member of the Communications Committee at the Microbiology Society.

Olivia Corcoran is Professor of Bioanalytical Chemistry at the University of East London, UK, who has a diverse interest in natural products that have antimicrobial properties.

We have also invited our humanities colleague, Dr Christina Lee, University of Nottingham, UK, who works on the history of disease and historical medical texts, to advise us. This is so we can ensure that we take a truly interdisciplinary look at "forgotten" pharmacopoeias.

What advice would you give to those presenting flash talks at the meeting?

Tell us what you might need to help move your ideas and work forward. We really hope the flash talks will encourage delegates to share useful research and allow them to make the most of building collaborative networks.  

The deadline for abstract proposals is Monday 5 August. Learn more about the meeting on the event page, by following us on Twitter, or by looking up the hashtag #AMRMeds19.