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Updates from the Glasgow Pharmacological Society

Published: 28 Sep 2018
Category: Ambassadors
By Charles Kennedy, Abdulaziz Alzahrani, Yvonne Dempsie, Eleanna Kritikaki

We were delighted to be part of the team which formed the Glasgow Pharmacological Society (GPS) in 2016, with funding from the British Pharmacological Society’s Ambassadors scheme. The idea behind the GPS was to bring together students and staff with an interest in pharmacology from Glasgow  Caledonian University (GCU), the University of Glasgow (UoG), and the University of Strathclyde (UoS). We hoped to showcase pharmacology and inspire current and future scientists. 

We have been lucky to attract some of the biggest names in pharmacology to speak at our annual events. We were absolutely delighted that Professor Humphrey Rang agreed to speak at our first event in June 2016, as Professor Rang is a co-author of the famous textbook that every undergraduate pharmacologist relies upon during their degree! Professor Rang’s impressive career, expertise and eminence in the field attracted many undergraduates, postgraduates and academic staff to fully pack the lecture theatre at GCU. Lively Q&A and networking sessions followed, and students had the opportunity to meet Professor Rang and have their textbooks signed.

In March of 2017, we were thrilled and honoured to host the current President of the British Pharmacological Society, Professor Stephen Hill. His talk, which took place at the UoG, focused on his research on ligand binding to cell surface receptors using fluorescent ligands and bioluminescence energy transfer. The students enjoyed the talk and took full advantage of the following networking session, to speak to Professor Hill and other academic staff and ask for advice about their future careers. This was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the research that takes place in other highly regarded institutions in the UK. We also got a ‘feel’ for how pharmacology is progressing due to the arrival of high-resolution techniques like bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET), which can detect receptor-ligand interactions.

We welcomed Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London to speak at our 3rd annual event at UoS in March this year. Professor Nutt drew a large audience of over 200 attendees for his talk entitled ‘Why Pharmacologists Should Also Be Revolutionaries’ . Speaking to a captivated audience, he began by describing how scientists have revolutionised our understanding of our world and continue to do so. He then explained how in the 1950s and 1960s, psychedelic drugs, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin (the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’), were legal, obtainable and used to treat a wide array of mood disorders including anxiety, alcoholism,  schizophrenia and depression. Social factors led to these drugs being made illegal and thus, barriers were introduced that severely impeded further research. Professor Nutt presented his own recent data from 12 patients with ‘resistant’ depression, who had been given a single dose of psilocybin. Half went into remission for several months, demonstrating the untapped therapeutic potential of this ‘illegal’ drug. The lecture was followed by a lively Q&A session and then, filled with revolutionary zeal, the audience stormed the departmental social area, where the discussion continued over drinks and snacks. Vive la révolution.

The GPS also had the fantastic opportunity of hosting the Bill Bowman Prize Lectureship in February 2018. Dr Aisah Aubdool spoke about ‘Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide: A Neuropeptide of Many Talents in the Cardiovascular System’. Almost 200 people were present in the lecture to learn about Dr Aubdool and the impressive work she conducted in Professor Susan Brain’s laboratory, which is cutting-edge in the field of cardiovascular pharmacology. As with all other GPS talks, this lecture was followed by drinks and a networking session. A comment by a postgraduate student in the GPS Facebook page epitomised what we are trying to achieve with these events: ‘Incredible lecture. I went  there with a very superficial interest, but I came out with a hunger for more’.

What does the future look like for the GPS?

We are very proud that following the successes of our events so far, the British Pharmacological Society has asked us to host the Bill Bowman Prize Lectureship for a second time in 2019. We are looking forward to hosting the event and inspiring the next batch of pharmacology undergraduates! As a Society, we aim to expand our event repertoire beyond inviting speakers, to include events such as poster presentations and debates. We also promote the work of British Pharmacological Society at large. The GPS logo, designed by a member of the Society is inspired by the British Pharmacological Society’s logo, pointing to the link with the ‘mother’ Society – we are one of its hexagons. The future is looking bright and exciting for the GPS! If you would like to find out more, please follow us on Facebook (Glasgow Pharmacological Society) or Twitter @glasgowpharmsoc.

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About the author

Abdullah Alzahrani

Abdullah Alzahrani gained his Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) from Liverpool John Moores University and then moved to the University of Birmingham and obtained his MSc in Toxicology. Abdullah is now a PhD student at Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS) funded by the Saudi Arabian government. Abdullah’s current research is focusing on finding new anti-diabetic and anti-obesity drugs from natural sources such as plants.

Charles Kennedy

Charles obtained a B.Sc. (Honours) in Pharmacology from Aberdeen University, and then a PhD from University College London, where he worked with Professor Geoffrey Burnstock, on the division of P2 receptors into the P2X and P2Y subtypes. Following a postdoctoral position at Michigan State University, he was a Beit Research Memorial Fellow at Cambridge University, working with Graeme Henderson, before joining Strathclyde University, where he is a Reader.

His research focuses on the pharmacological properties and physiological and pathophysiological functions of P2X and P2Y receptors, with particular reference at present to the pulmonary circulation and to P2Y heteromultimer formation.

Charles is a past editor of the British Journal of Pharmacology, chairs the IUPHAR P2X receptor nomenclature sub-committee and sits on the P2Y receptor sub-committee.

Eleanna Kritikaki

Eleanna completed her BSc (Hons) Pharmacology at Glasgow Caledonian University and is currently studying towards an MRes in Biomedical Science at the University of Glasgow. She is due to start a PhD in Neuroscience in the University of Sussex in September. Eleanna was one of the founding members of the Glasgow Pharmacological Society. She is an active member of the British Pharmacological Society and has contributed to the ‘How do Drugs Work?’ YouTube video series.

Yvonne Dempsie

Yvonne graduated from the University of Glasgow with a BSc (Hons) Pharmacology before gaining her PhD from the University of Nottingham. Yvonne then moved back to Glasgow to work as post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Professor Mandy MacLean before taking up a lectureship at Glasgow Caledonian University. Yvonne’s research focuses on finding novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Yvonne is the British Pharmacological Society’s Ambassador for the Glasgow area and started the Glasgow Pharmacological Society with funding from the Ambassadors scheme.