On March 6th, the Jenner Institute ran a free public engagement day on Vaccines and Infectious Disease at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, organised by Dr Lynda Coughlan who is the Public Engagement Representative. This event was run in partnership with The British Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (BSGCT), The British Society for Immunology (BSI), Oxford NIHR BRC and was the opening event for Oxfordshire Science Festival 2015. Over 250 people pre-registered to attend the event, including GCSE/A-level schools groups as well as members of the public and patient groups. The interactive day involved talks from science experts, hands-on activities, exhibitors, a panel discussion and special appearance by guest speaker Prof Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and co-discoverer of the Ebola virus.
Prior to the lunch break, topics covered included an introduction to the immune system by Prof Paul Klenerman, a presentation about advances in the development of novel transmission blocking malaria vaccines by Dr Sumi Biswas and an overview of ongoing clinical vaccines trials by Prof Adrian Hill, Jenner Institute Director. During lunchtime, students had the opportunity to visit several exhibitor stands including The Pirbright Institute, Progress Educational Trust, the BSI, the Veterinary Vaccinology Network as well as University of Oxford stands from the Jenner Institute, Oxford Vaccine Group, Stop-HCV and Modernising Medical Microbiology. Hands-on activities provided the opportunity to make DNA origami, build your own virus, investigate herd immunity and take throat swabs from a dummy patient! Additionally, students had the opportunity to talk to The Nuffield Foundation who offer paid summer science placements for students and they met and spoke to scientists and STEM ambassadors from a range of careers in medicine and basic scientific research.
After lunch, the speakers included Prof Helen McShane from the Jenner Institute who talked about the global burden of TB and future options for treatment and vaccination and Dr Matthew Snape who discussed how meningococcal infections affect teenagers and young adults. The guest speaker, Prof Piot delivered an engaging, entertaining and hugely interesting talk about his experience working as a field virologist in Africa in the 1970s at the height of the first Ebola outbreak. This epidemiological investigation led to the discovery of the Ebola virus. His talk really highlighted that infectious disease still poses a major threat to public health in the 21st century and that vaccination research is critical in combating emerging infections.
We received outstanding feedback about this event with attendees stating that it was an “absolutely brilliant day out – inspiring, interesting and fascinating”, it was “well organised, with top speakers” as well as “engaging activities, interesting and thought provoking talks”. Importantly, teachers were also impressed with the event and 100% of teachers stated that they found that it was very appropriate for the AQA biology syllabus. Furthermore, 100% of attendees said they would recommend the event to friends and colleagues.
Given the success of this event we will be running another public engagement day on the 9th of June 2015 in Glasgow titled “Gene Therapy and Stem Cells: 21st Century Medicine” with more great talks and exciting exhibitions. To find out more and register please visit http://bsgct.org/en/events/public-engagement-glasgow.html
Funding: This event was funded by The Jenner Institute, by a Communicating Immunology grant from BSI awarded to Dr Lynda Coughlan and Prof Helen McShane and by Oxford NIHR BRC. Partners included the BSGCT, Oxfordshire Science Festival and The Museum of Natural History.