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Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management


Interview: Prof Walsh

Listen to the interview with the Editor-in-Chief of the Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, Professor Garry Walsh, by clicking the Play button (the full interview is 7 minutes, 33 seconds). A transcript of the interview is also provided below.

Q: Professor Walsh, could you tell me a bit about yourself, what’s your degree in, for example, and where and when did you study?
Prof Walsh: I received my PhD from the University of London in 1992 and I studied with Professor Barry Kay at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Brompton Hospital.

Q: What led you to decide on that particular line of study?
Prof Walsh: Well, I had already worked with Professor Kay for five years previously and I actually undertook my masters project in his laboratory.

Q: And could you tell me what your main research interests are now?
Prof Walsh: The base of my work is focused on the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms controlling initiation and resolution of the inflammatory process underlining asthma, allergic diseases and, a little more recently, COPD. I’m also very interested in anti-histamines in terms of their anti-inflammatory effects and potential side effects.

Q: In your experience, how well do you think the current education system and educators serve students today?
Prof Walsh: I think very well.  I run an MSc in immunology here at Aberdeen. I’m course co-ordinator and you get very good feedback from students and they seem to be very happy with their experience. And I’m also involved with undergraduate and medical students and, again, you know, we get very good students and the feedback is very good.

Q: How can specialists in the field help patients better understand their work? For example, do you support the idea that academic or scholarly papers should all carry a plain text explanation of main findings or conclusions?
Prof Walsh: Well, my work is actually highly translational and that means its bench-to-bedside basically so we are very dependent on patient volunteers for these studies.  So well informed patients actually are more likely to volunteer for a given study. So things like patient groups, interest groups are very important, I think. And, yes, I think actually the idea of a plain text explanation as part of the abstract of a given paper would be very useful for these groups and individuals.

Q: In your opinion, who’s doing the most exciting or interesting work in your field at the moment?
Prof Walsh: I think there are some very good groups in London and Southampton at the moment. Again, I think the focus is becoming more translational in its nature than purely either patient-led research or lab-based research.

Q: Are there any rapidly evolving “hot” areas in your specialty right now and if so what might they lead to?
Prof Walsh: I think in terms of the basic research there is a lot of interest in T regulatory cells in asthma. My own viewpoint is that I think airway epithelial cells are becoming to be seen as very interesting and a perhaps under-rated area and the two cells do seem to interact with each other so there could be some very interesting hot evolving areas in those two cells.

Q: Has there been one particular person who has had a significant influence on your career and if so what did they do that was influential on you?
Prof Walsh: Well, basically, my mentor PhD supervisor Professor Kay. He actually gave me the opportunity in the first place to do a PhD in one of the best labs internationally recognised labs in the world basically and taught me how to be a good scientist and how to think laterally which is very important, I always think.

Q: And what’s the most far-reaching change that you’ve experienced during your career?
Prof Walsh: I think probably the identification of monoclonal antibodies because they came on the scene at around the same time that I actually started my scientific career and subsequent to that the humanisation of monoclonal antibodies in the late 80s led to the development of the large number of biologics that have had a significant impact on many diseases including asthma and allergy.

Q: Looking forward, what changes might you expect to see in your area of specialisation in 5 or 10 years time?
Prof Walsh: That’s a difficult question because asthma and COPD are very multifactorial conditions so it is difficult to know which is the best target that we might see developments in. But certainly I think there are more efforts that are cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional and actually contribute more to translational research in asthma and allergy and respiratory disease in general.

Q: Which area outside your own specialty would you most like to know about given the chance?
Prof Walsh: Well, a better appreciation of statistics would be a great help. It is an area that has always baffled me, to be honest.

Q: You may have already answered my next one. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Prof Walsh: I could delegate more, I think.

Q: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions that you would like to address in the future?
Prof Walsh: It would be interesting to get involved in the wider dissemination of science to a broader audience. After all we, you know, expect funding that ultimately comes from the taxpayer so it would be good if the people who are actually paying for the work understood what we are about and why we were doing these studies and how it might benefit them and their families.

Q: And if you could leave modesty aside, what would you say has been your greatest achievement in your professional life to date?
Prof Walsh: Well basically succeeding in what is a very competitive field and also keeping up the strike rate that is needed to achieve success.

Q: And what do you most dislike in your area of science?
Prof Walsh: Well, I think I would have a lot of people agree with me that it would be nice to see more research funding made available.

Q: Are there any particular topics in your area that you believe are seriously under-researched at the moment?
Prof Walsh: I think that perhaps the environmental aspects, how it impacts on respiratory disease in particular: that’s an area that could be funded more generously.

Q: What would you say were the benefits of “Open Access” journals such as your own?
Prof Walsh: Well, I think that “Open Access” is probably one of the most significant developments in scientific publishing since web-based journals came on the scene. You know you have the capacity to greatly speed up publication, you reach a much wider audience and you cut down on the amount of paper which is generated which is good for the environment.

Q: Absolutely, and finally could you tell us a little about your vision for your journal?
Prof Walsh: Well it’s done very well and I’m delighted with its progress to date and really just to continue on that present trajectory to ensure it develops as a world class journal.

Professor Garry Walsh was interviewed by Ruth Le Pla on behalf of Dove Medical Press. Ruth has setup interviews with some of our other Editors-in-Chief, so keep a look out for these, they should provide some compelling reading.

If there is someone in a specialist field you would like to read an interview about let us know and we will do our best to arrange it.