This gave us a real boost as we could concentrate on the science and we effectively avoided months of painstaking chemistry trying to make known intermediates and feedstocks! We have since also been able to team up with world leading institutions such as the Structural Genomics Consortium, in Oxford and Toronto and the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, leading to further grant income and publications.
As a result of this grant, we published a number of papers on organometallic-based anticancer agents*. Since then, I’ve moved to the University of Sussex where I was promoted to professor two years ago and have had the honour and pleasure of sitting on the Research Fund as both a committee member from 2014 to 2017 and last year as interim chair, succeeding Professor Keith Jones of the Institute of Cancer Research, who has been a wonderful personal mentor, friend and a fantastic ambassador for the RSC. Seeing the number of applications, their quality, and how the recipients progress with excellent papers and further grant outputs is a wonderful experience although it is an extremely competitive process with, unfortunately, a lot of superb grants not quite being funded.
I think this scheme has grown in stature, continues to attract grant applications of the highest quality and it makes a difference, for what may seem to be a relatively small amount of grant income (£4000 maximum). It provides a specific electrode or a pump that are vital for an experiment to lead to a bigger grant or a paper. One of the real attributes of the fund is that it not only makes a difference to early career researchers as I was, but it also often focuses on real world problems in places where resources are quite scarce; the results can have immediate impact.
When asked what his key advice would be to prospective applicants he replied:
Have a good think about what you need, not how much money you can get. In general, an application will look better if it's to serve a particular purpose, for example to buy a piece of vital specialised equipment, even if this is only £2000.
The funding I received gave me a boost in my confidence, it gave me several papers, conference invitations, external PhD examination invitations and I hope that it will help many other members fulfil their ambitions and succeed.
*see for example:
1. Click JAHAs: Conformationally Restricted Ferrocene-based Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors. Spencer, J.*, Amin, J., Boddiboyena, R., Packham, G., Cavell, B. E., Syed Alwi, S. S., Paranal, R. M., Heightman, T. D., Wang, M., Marsden, B., Coxhead, P., Guille, M., Tizzard, G. J., Coles, S. J., and Bradner, J.E. Med. Chem. Commun. 2012, 3, 61-64.
2. Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of JAHAs: Ferrocene-based Class I Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors; Spencer, J.*, Amin, J., Heightman, T., Packham, G., Paranal, R., Bradner, J.E., Tizzard, G., Coles S.J. ACS MedChem. Lett. 2011, 2, 358-362.
3. Structural and Biological Investigation of Ferrocene-Substituted 3-Methylidene-1,3-dihydro-2H-indol-2-ones, Spencer, J.*, Mendham, A. P., Kotha, A. K., Richardson, S. C. W., Hillard, E., Jaouen, G., Vessières, A., Male, M., Hursthouse, M. B. Dalton Trans. 2009, 918-921