Medicines Discovery Catapult Inspires Cheshire’s Future Scientists

School engagement programme reaches hundreds of local school children

Scientists from Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) have visited schools across Cheshire to deliver interactive lessons showing how medicines are made and how impactful a career in science can be.

Over 120 pupils aged 14-18 have heard from scientists about their roles at MDC, what it is like to work in medicines discovery, and the skills required to be a scientist.

The lessons are part of a school engagement programme between MDC and the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Pledge Partnership. Through this work, MDC and the Cheshire and Warrington LEP support regional skills development and encourage the next generation to consider a future in science in the North West’s thriving life science sector.

The schools involved in the initial programme are; Greenbank School and Hartford High in Northwich, Sir William Stanier School and The Oaks Academy in Crewe, and Ellesmere Port CofE College. MDC is also providing a ‘virtual lesson’ to all schools across Cheshire and Warrington, meaning that thousands of the region’s students will have access to an interactive session on careers in science.

In recent years, the Northern Powerhouse region – encompassing the North West, North East, and Yorkshire – has emerged as a strength for the UK life sciences sector, growing by over 9% since 2012.

The North West region employs over 25,500 people in the life sciences sector and generates 38% of all UK pharmaceutical output. Nurturing and inspiring the next generation of scientists will ensure that the North West and the UK remain leading forces in drug discovery.

MDC, based at Alderley Park, Cheshire, is reshaping drug discovery for the benefit of patients by transforming great UK science into better treatments through partnership. It does this by developing and driving the adoption of new technologies and techniques to make medicines R&D more predictive and productive.

The Local Enterprise Partnership leads the growth of the Cheshire and Warrington economy through a powerful partnership between the private, public, and voluntary sectors. It is building connections with organisations in Cheshire and Warrington to help improve the local economy and works closely with partners across the Northern Powerhouse.

Professor Chris Molloy, CEO at Medicines Discovery Catapult, said:

“Medicines discovery is an exciting part of Life Sciences and one for which the UK is world famous. MDC is committed to encouraging new talent to join our thriving sector in the North West. It is vital to show young people the high-impact careers open to them in their local area. Through these interactive lessons and face-to-face meetings, we hope to inspire the next generation of drug discoverers.”

Trevor Langston, Pledge Lead at the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said:

“The Cheshire and Warrington Pledge is all about putting employers at the heart of inspiring the next generation of young people. Life Science is a large sector within our local economy. We are pleased to have supported Medicines Discovery Catapult to inspire the young people in our schools by talking about the great careers available locally.”

Dr Laura Ajram, Partnership Lead for Neuroscience at Medicines Discovery Catapult, said:

“It was a pleasure to speak to the students at Greenbank about how I established my career in science and the important work we do at MDC to drive innovative medicines discovery. The students were so engaged, and it was great to discuss how the skills they have already could be adapted to a scientific role in their future careers. The North West is an exciting hub for life science activity, and we want to ensure that young people across Cheshire know about all the exciting opportunities on their doorstep. The future success of the UK’s drug discovery sector relies on attracting new talent, and I hope that we have inspired these students to become future medicine makers.”

Dr Gemma Holliday, Lead Cheminformatician at Medicines Discovery Catapult, said:

“It is an honour to have been invited to speak to the next generation of innovators at Sir William Stanier School. Our world is shaped by those that have gone before us, but if we are to continue to do great science in this world, it falls onto the shoulders of the young people coming up behind us. It was a real pleasure to talk to them about how we use computers in medicines discovery. Informatics skills are always in high demand as they can provide invaluable insight, making it a highly rewarding and ever-fascinating job. I hope I have inspired at least a small spark of excitement today and, dare I say, started one or two down the road to becoming an informatician.”

Dr Malcolm Haddrick, Lead Scientist at Medicines Discovery Catapult, said:

“I have worked in medicines discovery for my entire career, so I enjoyed talking to the students at Hartford High School about what a rewarding job it is. There are so many options for a career in science, and I was very pleased to hear from some of the students that it is a path they are considering!”

Dr Kirsty Winn, External Drug Discovery Project Lead at Medicines Discovery Catapult, said:

“It was great to engage with the Year 7 class at the very start of their high school journey and hopefully bring the field of drug discovery to life. Now they know a little more about it and have had fun being ‘classroom medicine hunters’ I hope some of them go on to consider medicines discovery as a career.”