25th Anniversary Discovery Day – Manchester

25th Anniversary Discovery Day – Manchester Date: 30 May 2014 - 30 May 2014
Location: Meningococcal Reference Unit, Public Health England, Manchester

A big thank you to all our members and supporters who joined us on our 25th Anniversary Discovery Day in Manchester last Friday. Professor Ray Borrow and his team put together an amazing day, with interesting talks, engaging tours and interactive group activities, all centered around MRF’s Meningococcal Genome Library project and the other work of Public Health England in Manchester.

Josie Bacon, who came with her mum and sister and had meningococcal B meningitis when she was 17 and on holiday in Spain said “I came along to find out more about MRF but found it extremely interesting learning about the science behind meningitis and the work that goes into the vaccination research.”

The day started with the arrival of an amazing 25th Anniversary cake, made by ‘Cakes by Beth’ and complete with MRF microscope and purple ribbon. After a ceremonial cutting by Ray Borrow and Chris Head, we sat down to listen to a series of talks, beginning with Ambassador Nick Crockatt, who movingly spoke about his family’s experience of the disease and really put the whole day into context.

Several of the research team then spoke about the role of the Meningococcal Reference Unit, both in the day-to-day response to cases but also in the longer term tracking of disease over time. Dr Jamie Findlow and Ray Borrow also discussed the new MenB vaccine and answered questions about how strain coverage is estimated and how people’s immunity to meningococci is calculated.

Dr Jay Lucidarme and Dorothea Hill then both spoke about the MRF Meningococcal Genome Library and how it is being used for ongoing meningitis research. It became really clear from the whole day that genome sequencing is a key tool for the future of microbiology and medicine, putting the Library project at the forefront of infectious disease research more generally.

After lunch, we split into groups and had a go at various activities, looking down microscopes, investigating fictional local cases using the Genome Library and seeing the real work in action in the PHE laboratories on site. A fun quiz from Ray at the end of the day also made sure that we had paid attention to the morning talks, and provided us with a few laughs. Henry Barnes proudly went home with a bottle of Bah Humbug for getting all questions correct.

Along with the planned activities, the day was also a great opportunity for people to meet other MRF supporters, sharing experiences and stories and many people went home having made new friends. Tom Partington, whose friend Ryan Sweatman passed away in 2012 summed it up by saying “Meeting more supporters of the charity and seeing the actual science behind the scenes was the best thing about the day”.

Many thanks to everyone involved and to all who have supported the charity over the past 25 years.