Q1: You have worked in the US and recently in Europe. In your opinion, what are the differences on how medical and clinical research is conducted & funded between US and EU?
Pr. Jeffrey Pollard: My personal field of activity is on the biology of macrophages particularly their role in the tumor microenvironment promoting tumor progression and metastasis. I am Professor of Resilience Biology and Director of the University of Edinburgh and MRC Centre for Reproductive Health.
I am the recipient of many US grants from the NIH, particularly from the NCI and NICHD. In addition I have a Wellcome Senior Investigator award.
I am also a visiting Professor in Guangzhou, China and on the scientific advisory boards of many institutions in China, Canada and the US.
Funding aspects: EU funded research may be a little bit more administrative than the US approach. There are differences in the application format with many more administrative forms to fill than in the US. However, I have yet to complete a European grant and so it is hard to comment. The UK applications are either simpler or similar to the US, dependent on agency. In both wider Europe and the UK there is much more interaction with the agencies than the US that can be both a positive and negative aspect.
Q2: You have just arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland, at MRC what were the challenges you had to face?
Pr. Jeffrey Pollard: The major challenge I faced has been setting up my mouse genetic experiments owing to significant legislative barriers and slow processing of applications. The transition from one country to another is also an enormous undertaking that has taken almost two years.
Positive aspects: include being in the best environment for macrophage biology in the world and also very excellent staff I have recruited. The University of Edinburgh is also a world-class university in the top 20 in the world and has a great range of biological research at the highest level.
Q3: Do you think that the FP7 instrument was a good program to enhance and develop research opportunities in Europe? Do you intend to apply for Horizon 2020 funding for MRC Centre?
Pr. Jeffrey Pollard: For Europe it is necessary to have pan European programs fostering research outside of national boundaries and encouraging collaborations. Building these international new connections is however time consuming since different attitudes and cultures need to find a common denominator.
As a scientific advisor to the RAIDs project I have had the opportunity to see the advancement of the preclinical work package (WP6) as well as all the other WPs at the 18 months meeting in Amsterdam. I do believe that any funding opportunity is a good thing and this pan-European one is well applied in the RAIDs program.
As regards to me applying to Horizon 2020 grants: Presently I have a number of ongoing grants. EU grants are heavy duty on administrative tasks and the writing of most collaborative EU grant takes presently too much of my time. I would need to have access to a project manager with a good knowledge of the administrative part of EU grant writing to do these applications.
Q4: What do you think of RAIDs project: its expected impacts and upcoming results?
Pr. Jeffrey Pollard: My personal evaluation of RAIDs (preclinical and clinical aspects) is that this is a very methodical approach to the biology of cancer and specifically to the field of the tumour microenvironment that will be key to all developments in the vaccine field. In effect, beyond the checkpoint modulation, there is as yet an unexplored domain of blocking unfavorable chemokines which are produced by the tumor and which hamper the correct maturation of dendritic cells and also activation of T cells. The tumor microenvironment appears biased to a Th2 response that often results in it being immunosuppressive.
The work done by Franck Perez in this respect, (deliverable 6.3 of RAIDs) in developing a tool that will allow screening for any molecules that can prevent the CSF1-CSF1 receptor interaction in the tumor microenvironment will bring valuable information to clinicians involved in cancer vaccines. A first approach aiming to inhibit the cellular transport of the CSF1 receptor failed for technical reasons, the gene being too big and unstably expressed. Franck Perez’s team however, has recently succeeded in synchronizing CSF1 transport and the Rush screening system is now ready to screen for molecules/drugs that could be used in the clinic and serve as inhibitors of CSF1 secretion in the near future. This is a very exciting development.
I understand that the clinical workload got delayed in countries outside France and therefore I strongly recommend the planned prolongation of this very important RAIDs project that is pioneering and is bound to have tremendous potential for beneficial repercussions in the future.
Q5: What is you general impression on the RAIDs consortium and the work progress?
Pr. Jeffrey Pollard: I have a long-standing scientific interaction with Dr. Scholl on this aspect and we wrote a review paper together in 1993 suggesting that blocking CSF1 might be a valuable approach for rendering tumor vaccines effective. My personal work using genetic mouse models have brought a proof of concept as anti-CSF1 reagents have recently shown clinical efficacy. Many pharmaceutical industries are developing antibodies against CSF1 or against CSF1 receptor and this field will be very important in the future. This aspect of RAIDs that is close to my personal preoccupations will become tremendously important in the future as we become better in our design of anticancer vaccines. It is my feeling that such methodologies will also impact and improve on presently available standard therapies.
The Curie team is excellent having been pioneers in the clinical aspect of the field. They also have novel screening strategies for development of small molecules against the CSF1-CSF1R axis that should be valuable. In addition they have excellent clinical access to well-documented patients that is an invaluable resource.