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Professor Paul Riley, Director of the Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine discusses how better-designed research buildings can help scientists break out of their silos.

Opening of the IDRM

he advances made in medical and biological sciences within our lifetime are staggering. It seems strange to think that the project to sequence the human genome took over a decade to complete back in 2001, yet similar sequencing technology is now portable and is used daily in the field.

Each advance in research has opened up new avenues of exploration and with each new stride whole new research disciplines have emerged. Sadly, in modern science it is impossible to be an expert in more than a few things, despite the fact that most scientists will have chosen their careers early on because of a fascination with all things to do with science, and a desire to keep learning and making new discoveries themselves.

Yet we are increasingly finding, in areas such as our response to pandemics or cancer treatments, it is vitally important that these related avenues of research should remain in contact with one another. The discovery of a new technique in one area could be just as useful to another, and research into complex medical issues is increasingly becoming multi-disciplinary.

Some years ago we began to plan a way of creating a new type of working environment for researchers, which could encourage scientists to mingle more with people from outside their own niche discipline. The logic is simple – scientists are passionate about their work and love talking about it. But the problem with many labs is that most researchers find themselves surrounded only by others from their own field and much of what is going on elsewhere is behind closed doors.

This was the idea behind the Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine (IDRM) – to bring the related disciplines of cardiovascular science, immunology and neuroscience together under one roof, and to design it in a way that increases the chances of these groups mixing socially and professionally, promoting conversations to stimulate new ideas and collaborations between students, post-docs and PIs.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website.