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Dan Davis (The University of Manchester)

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About this episode

#9 — What a time to chat with an immunologist! It makes a change to hear Dan talking about himself, how he developed his career, including the real motivation to becoming a Professor at Imperial at such a young age.

Starting out as a Physicist, Dan made a remarkable and fast switch in careers to which he attributes much of his success. Sometimes a passion coupled with early naivety can be the perfect starting point.

As well as being a passionate communicator, Dan also discusses balancing being a father, husband, scientist, and popular book author. I wish I had asked him what he preferred, starring in book festivals or headlining science conferences! One thing is for sure, his sense of humor is not as good as his science or writing. Make sure you watch/listen to the end to realize just how bad his jokes are!

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Please note that this is a Machine Transcription and may not be 100% accurate.

Peter O’Toole (00:00:01):
Hi, I’m Peter O’Toole today I’m joined by the great Dan Davis from University of Manchester and microscopist , Dan, hi, how are you doing?

Dan Davis (00:00:10):
Hi Peter, how are you doing?

Peter O’Toole (00:00:13):
Well? I just asked you that question. You can’t ask, ask the same question back without answering.

Dan Davis (00:00:19):
Yeah, I’m good. I’m doing well, what about you?

Peter O’Toole (00:00:22):
Yeah, no, I’m actually very well. And thank you for joining me today. I’ve got to say I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

Dan Davis (00:00:30):
Okay. All right, Pete. I don’t know whether that sounds good or bad.

Peter O’Toole (00:00:36):
Good for me. Maybe not for you. We’ll find out as we go along, I remember the first time we met, you know, there’s so many people, I meet some people, some people are really memorable and it was back, I think 2002 ish, I think back at, well actually it was an RMS conference. I think it was the first one microscopical society conference I ever went to organize for Justin Malloy in Oxford at the time. And I remember you being there as this young, really big name immunologist. And you had, you must’ve been what, 32 33 at the time and cruising towards your professorship, which you got at the young age of 35. And I knew of you. I heard you talk and there you are casually lounging around in your t-shirt rucksack on your back, looking as casual and as laid back as ever. And do you know what you haven’t changed?

Dan Davis (00:01:33):
Well, you know, I, I can’t recall. I certainly remember hanging out with you in conferences. I’m not sure precisely recall that one exactly, but I mean, everyone, everyone much more informal when we meet at conferences. Right. It’s not just me.

Peter O’Toole (00:01:49):
Yeah, no, I know it would have been super casual in there, but I know, I think back in back then, the old guard was still quite formal. If you think about that, Tony Wilson would have been there. Even Justine was there, so, and they were all certainly shirt wearing.

Dan Davis (00:02:07):
I mean, there there is something in that isn’t there. Like, it’s not just it’s not just an anecdote from a meeting that you and I are at. It’s also true that in general in society you know, scientists used to be all in all in suits, all male dominated or, well, okay. There were obviously great women throughout history in science, but it has, you know, the people that do science has changed dramatically, in the course of our careers and, and also the, yeah, the chit chat, the banter at meetings, things were a lot formal, a lot more formal, I think, in, in bygone time, then it’s true. I think that now, yeah, now things have relaxed. People are much more themselves in meetings. The personalities, are quite colorful in a lot of these, meetings we go to. So, yeah, it’s probably true in, but there’s been a kind of change over the last few decades in, in how formal people are at scientific events.

Peter O’Toole (00:03:06):
I’ve just realized the irony that here I am sitting wearing your shirt. That’s fine. That’s fine. It’s not like you’re not fully buttoned up on it and it’s not beige pretty good for you. Very good. Was certainly the color back then anyway. So Dan, you know, you’re, you’re very modest. You’re not going to talk too much about this, but you did become a professor at the age of 35, which is very young. How daunting did you find that?

Dan Davis (00:03:40):
Well I, I, I think that, you know, I think that when, when you’re younger, you sort of, or at least for me, I didn’t think about it as much. I didn’t think about career structures or titles or, or career progression as much as maybe I’m forced to now, or, or other young people I come across and think about, like, I think that, I think that you know, I did physics first. I went to the USA and did, and did they did biology and it was just part of the momentum and excitement of what we were doing. And I think the reason that I, one of the key reasons I wanted to, because you have to apply to be a professor, you have to fill out a form essentially, then they judge it. So there has to be some active thing. It doesn’t, none of this stuff just sort of aligns in your face.

Dan Davis (00:04:34):
So I think one of the things I remember thinking was that the titles that people have are useful for how others perceive you. So that was why it was going to be useful to me. So if students are looking to do their PhD in our lab, we find professor whatever, for whatever reason, even though I know all the titles and nonsense, I would, I would be seen as a better bet to do my, someone might want to pick my lab to do their PhD project. And so in that sense, the titles can be important, but I think it’s actually really important, that we always remember that these titles are, are a bit nonsense. U the, you know, it’s really academic life is full of race to gain status. And, and I think it’s quite important that we, remember that were all in it together. We’re all trying to discover something important. We’re all trying to, push forward our knowledge, produce things that are benefits to society. You know, you know, these titles, lecturer, senior lecturer, reader, professor, or whatever it is in the US assistant professors. So, I mean, yeah, you have to go through the motions, but you know, they’re not, they’re not that crucial.

Peter O’Toole (00:05:46):
I think that’s bought two important things forward, actually. It’s firstly, I’m even losing my train of thought, listening to you. Yeah. Some people, when they get their professorship, actually they feel as though they’ve made it and they take the foot off the pedal, you know, they’ve got the status and they’ll sit back, which certainly hasn’t happened yourself, I guess, because you don’t recognize the status, particularly you are research-driven and, and the most successful at that a little bit, it doesn’t matter because you keep going and that’s hard to keep that momentum at all times. You know,

Dan Davis (00:06:24):
I don’t think, you know, all the people that you meet, you know, you mentioned all these conferences, we go to all the people that we meet in these in scientific meanings, the people that are the, that you see give a great talk and it’s all exciting, or people you meet and they’re colorful. They have lots of things about them, as well as the sun. You know, I don’t think that they’re too fast about their status. You know, so it’s true. Being a professor is good. You know, you get, you get you get noticed as being a professor, but it’s also true that it’s total, it’s just a madness, all these titles and, and, and, you know, we need to, everyone has to be, well, I mean, there are obviously practical things about the, that come with career progression. Like obviously getting a permanent secure job might be important in, in some way. And, and short-term contracts have their problems. And the status of technicians in labs, for example, might be another area where there’s work to be done to make that how it should be. But the, but the, but the, you know, titles like professor are, you know, neither here nor there really yeah,

Peter O’Toole (00:07:41):
Yeah. I, I might get into trouble, but I’m going to say now. So hopefully you need editing out afterwards. You mentioned that technicians in labs, and obviously I I’m in a service where all my staff are classed as technicians. I would argue that more research almost career post-docs, but technology bias rather than really driving behind one subject all the time. And I, you know, I think that’s a really good career path. It suits them, they are very successful in what they do. It’s not wrong. And yet the word technician still has this stigma about it in some quarters. Yeah,

Dan Davis (00:08:18):
Yeah, yeah, no, I totally, I’m totally on board with that. And yeah, the Wellcome Trust did a survey of how, of various attitudes within the structure of science at the beginning of the year. And one of the things that came up was it was true that I think it was right, that we need to, there are examples where technicians in labs might be made to feel sort of like second class citizens. And there’s no way that, that, you know, we’ve got to change that. U there are several things about science that we need to, that we need to work on. Obviously, diversity, is a, is a crucial issue, but there are the more nuanced issues within science, very specifically, which would include things like the status of the technicians in labs. It’s hard to get it right, because if you like, if you give people full term contracts, permanent jobs right off the bat, you know, may maybe, maybe there’s an argument that people won’t stay fresh and keep and keep, keep up the momentum and drive that’s needed to, to, to keep us pushing forward knowledge as in the best way we can.

Dan Davis (00:09:22):
But equally you’ve got to acknowledge the people who’ve got very complicated lives are outside science and, and short-term contracts definitely have problems.

Peter O’Toole (00:09:30):
Yeah. This conversation is going completely different to us. I thought thinking about those stresses of the short-term contracts, I think if, if they had longer term or more permanent positions, it would also maybe help the integrity of publications. I think there is a pressure for people to cut corners, to be economic with the truth, with some of their results. And ultimately a lot of them get caught out, but I do worry that some of the scientists out there are so eager to get the next big publication that they do massage, cherry pick. I don’t want to be disingenuous. That’s not the way, you know what I mean to anyone. but I do think that culture does encourage in a minority, very small minority, but it’s important to acknowledge.

Dan Davis (00:10:14):
Well, I I’m in, I think one of the things I’m quite passionate about saying is, is that we’re not in the business of publishing, that when we’re trying to make scientific discoveries and that is our priority and because of the, you know, because of, because science has become so structured as a, as a career, which is a result of so many people doing it, you know, like you said, right in the beginning, people used to be more formal and that’s true, but it also used to be a lot less people doing science. and right now, I mean, there’s any number of people doing science. If I put out a job advert for a post-doc I think the last one I did, I had like 150 200 applicants, you know, half of them I’m pretty sure are going to be great post-ops if not all of

Peter O’Toole (00:11:11):
Them. Right.

Dan Davis (00:11:15):
So the structure, the, the, the, of science makes it that we do have this intense focus on publications. And I don’t know what exactly the right way out of that is because it is true that publications are very, very important, but really it’s the science itself that’s important. And I, you know, sometimes we can get caught up even in my own lab. We can get caught up in the sense that, you know, we need to publish, we have to publish what we’ve got, even though even though I know it, it would be better if we carried on for a bit and nailed this, all that part of the, of the story. But I know also we have to publish. I know also that the, the contract of that person is three years, four years, so we have to publish their stuff and then we need to, because they need to get the next job, et cetera.

Dan Davis (00:12:10):
So there’s all these, all these things get caught up in the way in which we do science and it’s become, it’s become very complicated, but, you know, we just got to stay talking about that. And we’ve, I think, you know, lab heads would instill their, their own ethos within their own lab about that. And I think most of the great scientists, not me, the great scientists, I mean, they would, they would be telling their lab team, you know, in fact, when you spoke to Jennifer Lippencott-Schwarts in this series, she said that it’s such a huge effort to get, to produce a paper that you only really want to do that when you’ve got something really important to say, I’m paraphrasing exactly what you said, but it wasn’t that it was that sense.

Peter O’Toole (00:12:57):
Yeah. I, I asked someone else as well. And one of their favorite publication, I think took nine years from the start, when the inception to getting it published, they published lots in between that, that slow burner. Is it? Yeah.

Dan Davis (00:13:13):
Some papers are, are a real slow burn. Yeah. And there’s actually in the, in the course of in, in the later part of my career, I’ve, I’ve written a couple of books and that involved interviewing many tens of great scientists. And I remember interviewing Pamela Bjorkman about, she did the, with Don Wiley and Jack Strominger did the crystal structure of, of a protein, ADH2. And it did take her something like eight or nine years. I can’t remember exactly. I remember asking her about, what, what, what kept her going through that? And it’s really difficult because something like a crystal structure of a protein, I mean, nowadays you can do it quite easily, but this was some time ago, the mid to late eighties. And, here’s no kind of halfway moment where you’ve got a bit of a success.

Dan Davis (00:14:00):
You’ve either got the crew. You’ve either got the structure of the protein or you haven’t. And until you get to that point, you haven’t like half discovered even when you discovered anything. So it takes great perseverance and it takes if there’s anything about what my I mean, there’s all different kinds of people do science, but is there anything sort of general that emerges over the people that are very successful is about, is having a sort of inner belief that you’re going to get there and, and that sort of fuels the perseverance that you need.

Peter O’Toole (00:14:33):
I love the fact that you ditched structural biology saying it’s easy now. They’ll love you for it. I’m sure I would just take that quote.

Dan Davis (00:14:41):
Well, I mean, it is easier, and, and now they make it more complicated for themselves by trying to look at lots of more nuanced, complicated structures and interactions and whatnot.

Peter O’Toole (00:14:53):
That’s taken into the Cryo EM that they’re only doing that. So they take all the research money to themselves. I am joking careful what I say again. Good grief. You know, what was interesting right at the start? You mentioned that your first degree was in

Dan Davis (00:15:10):
Physics physics. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:15:13):
And here you always are successful immunologist. That’s quite a big shift in field.

Dan Davis (00:15:19):
Yeah. Well, it wasn’t, again, it wasn’t like a planned thing. Well, so, so I did physics. So I think, I think at a young age, I wanted to do science and, and physics was what what I wanted to do, because it was laws that work across the whole universe. So what could be more important than, than that? What could be more fundamental than the way in which the whole universe works? So that was what I had to work on. And I really, you know, I loved it. I loved doing physics at university and then went on to do my PhD in physics, but then I think actually just genuinely changed my mind that about what was important. I thought that the laws that work in the whole universe must be the most fundamental thing. And then I literally changed my mind. And for actually life is even more fundamental than that, even though you could only study life in one space, one place within the universe still.

Dan Davis (00:16:18):
And I think I also started to see that that I can make I might be able to make a better contribution to science if I started thinking about how life works, because at least the type of physics I was doing was a bit yes , I felt was a bit more esoteric and I needed to get to where the action was, which was in biology. So, so I decided I will switch from physics to biology. Also after my PhD in physics, I then went to study biology, but then which aspect of biology I would study was a little bit more random than that. So I simply wrote to lots of labs in the USA. So I wanted to go to the USA because I also felt at that time, that that was also where the action was, where lots of things were happening.

Dan Davis (00:17:03):
So I wanted to go to live in the USA for a while. And I simply wrote to basically famous people that were in a city that I thought would be fun. Yeah, probably. Yeah. So yeah, actually a couple of them won Nobel prizes since I definitely pick, pick the right sort of people. And and then to my surprise, I got quite a few letters back from people that actually taking someone from physics into a biology lab was actually what quite a lot of people didn’t want to do. They saw that there was something exciting about that in quite, especially in the US where labs can be quite large. So I, even though I might be a bit of a risk as a physicist in biology lab that there’ll be a structure of 20 other people that are going to get them the papers they need anyway. So that’s fine. So they can just take some like me and see what happens. And so then, yeah, so then I switched into immunology and that was a little bit more random. But yeah, then I got into immunology and then when I got there that was when I suppose I kicked off with the kind of work that I’m very slightly known for immunology stuff,

Peter O’Toole (00:18:11):
Very slightly known for goodness sake. I, I think that, I think it’s a key point and do you know so many people that I talk to their careers. I’ve never been, they’ve never had a career. They, they never know where they’re heading. They’ve started typically in physics or chemistry. And they’ve ended up in the field of biology through all sorts of convoluted routes and following their passion and the opportunity and finding where their strengths are and playing to their strengths or moving forward with it. But that is quite a big deal.

Dan Davis (00:18:43):
Well, you’ve got that. We’ve got to instill that in in young people today, because I think as well, because of the structured of, because it’s come very competitive, people do tend to go from degree to PhD, to postdoc to postdoc, to fellowship, to having their own lab in a, in a more linear way. And it is, you know, we need to make sure that people do retain a sense of it’s kind of fun and fluid and you should be able to do stuff. And that, and that, that is hard. I think it’s all a consequence of there being a lot, a lot of people doing science and that makes it harder to do that. But yeah, so that’s that’s where we are, but we got to try and keep it fun.

Peter O’Toole (00:19:21):
Well, I will give a shout out, certainly in the UK to research funders, I’ve actually quite good at encouraging well switching disciplines and moving and using your expertise in a completely different area. Yeah.

Dan Davis (00:19:32):
Yeah. Because also Peter thats thats that’s how you can get this illusion of creativity very easily. So if I’m coming in from physics and then some biology, I’ll just say, I remember, you know, what I remember going into. So I was working with Jack Strominger in Harvard University of the these epic people doing, doing stuff they were looking at. It was a time when a particular type of immune cell was, it had been discovered in 75, but the molecular details of how it really decided whether another cell was healthy was easy. So that was all just coming out. I know, I just said, Oh, that looks pretty cool. Yeah. Well, if we heat up the cells a bit, you check, well, they were like, what, what do you mean, heat them up a bit? That’s like crazy. And I was just thinking, Oh, you know, when you get a fever, the thing, you know, the body temperature goes up, let’s just heat up the cells.

Dan Davis (00:20:26):
Let’s see what happens. I mean, probably people have done this 50 years ago, but I didn’t know. And then it actually turned out that, you know, the immune cells would, would suddenly recognize these cancer cells and other cells much more effectively when you, when they were heated up to 41 or 42 degrees. And then, and then, you know, I mean, I sort of didn’t pursue at other people, but it did turn out much later that, you know, you get a very specific stress response induced in the cells that lead to the upregulation of proteins that are specifically put up at the cell surface, when a cell is stressed out when it’s heated up. So there are you, if you just come in from a different discipline, you just have, you might say wacky things that are good, good for you and good for the people that are working in that area, as long as, as long as you’re all, you know, we, you know, I made a lot of good friends at that time as well. So as long as you’re sort of bouncing around and it’s all good natured, you know, you can, it’s really good for science to mix it up like that.

Peter O’Toole (00:21:27):
Yeah. So the beauty of naivety.

Dan Davis (00:21:29):
Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of that in it. I think, I think it’s really great to come in to a lab and be like, what’s that be flushing up?

Peter O’Toole (00:21:38):
You said, you said you forwarded some pictures.

Dan Davis (00:21:41):
So, so when I got into the an immunology lab you know, so, so they were doing this sort of the stuff that immunologists at that time did a lot of which is, you’ll have a cell type of immune cell they’re working on that for killer cell. So these are, these are just one of your white blood cells that are very good at killing certain types of cancer cell and some virus infected cells and, and at that time they were looking at how does that type of immune cell see that another cell is diseased? And so the way that you do you do that, there are several ways you could do that. What people were doing is you just sort of make antibodies against all the different, random proteins that the NK cell might have, for example, and you find ones that might stop the killing, and then, you know, that, that sticking to something that might be really important, or you could, genetically mess with the cell in some way and find versions of the cell that can’t kill or can kill better. I’m not where you dig into the details of molecular recognition, how the NK cell sees that another cell is healthy or diseased. So I came into the lab, and I, I said, well, that is really amazing. Now, now we’re working out, you know, that this protein sticks to this other protein, and that then triggers the NK cell to know that that is a cancer cell, but why does it take 10 minutes for that to happen? What was going on

Peter O’Toole (00:23:17):
The image for that, for those listening to it, you’ve got the nice image of that recognition to start with, and then the cell, well, not looking too good after 10 minutes really, is it?

Dan Davis (00:23:26):
So I just took these cells to the microscope facility, which as far as I know, one ever, no one had ever been to this microscope facility. I mean, for me, from where I’m from the building where I was, so, I mean, and then just looked at these cells interacting so that there, you could see as a natural killer cell from someone’s blood, it’s sticking to another cell and it kills it within, within 10 minutes. So that then although you have all the knowledge was building up around the details of which protein is important for all of this stuff to happen there wasn’t, there wasn’t a good sense of the space and time of that. What, what, what, how does that play out over the few minutes that the cells are stuck together? And then it turns out that, ho this was 95, 96, 97. So the GFP had just been, cloned, chalfie who got the, Martin Chalfie, he got the Nobel prize, long with, Roger Tsien and, and, and, mou know, so GFP was, has a new thing at that time.

Dan Davis (00:24:33):
And so putting GFP onto the end of the MHC protein. So one of the really important proteins in how immune recognition works. That’s why I decided to do, to look at how this plays out over the few minutes of the interaction. Yeah. So then, so then I guess what, what you could see is that, you know, the GFP tagged proteins sort of moved up to the contact between the cells. So to me, that was like super exciting, but it was, it’s true that you, you know, someone who knew where they were doing, have expected that because you could already, it was already known that like when beads stick to a cell they cumulate proteins at the contact. So, so I was getting I was like, Oh, how could these super cool pictures, but maybe other people would have said, Oh,

Peter O’Toole (00:25:15):
I will say the image quality did get somewhat better than the first images that you had back in 95.

Dan Davis (00:25:21):
So then, but what was really surprising in that time was if you sort of, you used the confocal taking Zed slices and I mean, it’s hard for me to know what the general field is. I just come from physics to biology and it was really cool for me to do that. I don’t know if around the world, this was something people were doing or not really. But if you image down between the two cells, then the different proteins were organizing themselves into sort of patterns and that then became the immune or immunological synapses. So Abraham Kupfer, who’s now, John Hopkins, he, he, he did see that first before me. He did that in T-cells, Mike Dotson, Mike Dustin, did similar work, to Abraham, and I did it in NK cells. And, I mean, my, my sense of it is, I mean, I didn’t really know, I didn’t know about their work when I was doing that, but it did, but the, certainly my paper was off the bed.

Dan Davis (00:26:17):
And and that was that was really fun and really exciting to me. And I was very nervous about by the whole thing. I didn’t really, I saw it on the screen or when you reconstruct the Zed stack images from a confocal, I saw on the screen that these proteins were not evenly distributing between the two cells. There was some pattern to that. I saw that, but I was also very worried that I was making it up in my head and I wasn’t, I wasn’t at all confident that I was doing this right. So in one of the times I had my, my wife, I mean, the, she does do scientific things around. She was doing some, genetic analysis work over the Dana-Farber Cancer Unit, but she doesn’t do anything like w like wet experimental science. Umnd so I had her come and sort of look at the pictures and do, essentially do the experiment on the microscope

Dan Davis (00:27:11):
With me just saying how the microscope works, you know, checking, does this, is this, am I making this up? Or does it look like there’s kind of rings and splotchy patterns with holes and different proteins and going in different places? And then, yeah, so then, yeah, I think a lot of science is about gaining confidence in what you’re doing, and you know me with microscopy this couldn’t be more important because, you know, in microscopy, it’s really hard to know what you’re doing. You’ll see all kinds of weird stuff. If you just look at, if you just look at a few cells bumping around you could ask a very specific question, you know, you would have set up the experiment in some way that is trying to answer something, but out of the corner of that movie, you just think there might be something weird going on. And it’s really hard to know whether you should investigate that weird thing a little bit more, or it’s just a bit weird, or even, or even the, did you just see that? Or will you just make an app? Right. So I think microscopy is really psychologically difficult for those reasons. Yeah,

Peter O’Toole (00:28:21):
It can be a rabbit hole as you start chasing something that was really, really rare to see, and you’ll never replicate it again,

Dan Davis (00:28:30):
Even, even in those very early pictures that I took, I would often see a GFP tag protein in one cell, end up in the other cell that I didn’t put it in. Right. So there’ll be a fluorescent protein in one cell, the immune cell let’s say, and that, that other protein would swap over to the, and I would see that. And I would say that it’s just mad. I put it down. So maybe the cells die bits of dead cell move around. I don’t know. I just, I wasn’t strong willed enough to know that that could be a really important phenomenon until I saw another paper show that so Jonathan Sprent, had a paper in science that showed proteins move from one cell to the other, u, these immune cell interactions. And then I thought what I’ve been seeing that for years, right. We need to seriously, we need to follow this up. And then that led to a little, a few years of several years, in fact of work that we did on how things are moving around between immune cells. And I still think that’s an untapped area of immunology that cells aren’t sticking to the proteins they make they’re swapping about very commonly,

Peter O’Toole (00:29:43):
Which kind of leads on, I will get off science in a minute and start talking about other things, but I guess talks onto the microtubules, which are the nanotube you’re one of the first well co-discoverers. So on the tubules.

Dan Davis (00:29:56):
So the, so the, so these are the, yeah, so these are nanotubes. So these pictures were taken by Björn önfelt. He now has his own lab in the Karolinska Institute he’s a professor there, but, but when he was in my lab yeah, so we were working very deliberately on things swapping around between cells, because I just seen that myself and my first PhD student, Leo Carlin dug into that in some detail and published a paper on that. And then, you know, we saw all these long thin strands of membrane connecting these immune cells together. And we called them a membrane nanotubes a [inaudible] is who’s sadly died. He, he published a paper in Science on these on structures that are very similar to this, or perhaps the same as this. And we followed that up.

Dan Davis (00:30:46):
I can’t remember exactly a few, few months later, maybe a couple of months later with a short paper saying that these structures are quite common. And again, it’s one of those things in microscopy where you can see these things, right. So when I first gave talks on these thin strands of membrane between immune cells, I would always get someone in the audience like, well, what, how will you, I saw that in like 1978, like what, what are you doing? And I was like, yeah, I mean, it’s not difficult to see strands of membrane that stick between cells. They’re very common. The issue is the change in thinking is, is that really important? Is that doing something, is that, is that creating a mini cyanotic structure at the tip of the nanotube that is sending a signal down the tether, from one cell to communicate over a little distance? Or is it even in some situations that sort of hollow tube and things are trafficking, from one cell to another? I mean, there has to be some gating mechanisms that, cause it can’t be, the cells are transferring everything from one source. It, so it opens up, it’s just a change in mindset that these strands of membrane are really, really important, but, you know, so that’s, that’s where we got, that’s where we go,

Peter O’Toole (00:31:53):
Which comes back to, you may have seen it in the seventies, but if you didn’t study it or publish it back to publications, then no one knows and no one’s followed it. And no one’s trying to understand it once you publish it, people try and understand it to a greater depth and see if it’s relevant to their areas and stuff.

Dan Davis (00:32:09):
Well, it also, it’s also there’s another nuance to all this, which is that which is really important for microscopy, which is that even if we discover that these strands can do this or that between cells under our you know, super high powered laser base scanning microscope, you know, where and when is that happening in the body? So you’ve got to be a bit careful. So that is a, that’s a huge challenge for all the cell volumes going on. Exosomes is, is is a good example of that. Lipid rafts was was a great one for that and these membrane nanotubes are in this category of a lot of stuff. They could, a lot of stuff could be happening in this way, in which we can’t easily see inside the human body or inside an animal, even it is so, so there’s a limit to our knowledge, which comes down very directly from a limit in the technology.

Peter O’Toole (00:33:06):
Okay. Moving on slightly from that, you went over to the States and I don’t know how old you were when you went in there, you’re in your twenties on presuming at this point, when you went over to the U S and you obviously really keen to get over there, but how did you find moving to the US

Dan Davis (00:33:27):
So I absolutely loved it. So I went I think I just turned 26, maybe I was 25, something like that. And I went to the US Harvard, I remember arriving in the lab. I can, I can, it was a blizzard that was in Boston. I mean, he couldn’t see anything. It was just masses of snow everywhere. I was staying in the youth hostel there. I came into the lab. I mean, it was his lab bench with bottles and liquids in like, It was mad. I was like, what is it? What is this, what is this like, madness? Because I hadn’t, I hadn’t done anything in a biology lab. Right. So it was, yeah. I was like, where’s that? Where’s the laser table. You know, it was like it was, but I was really excited about it. It was really exciting opportunity.

Dan Davis (00:34:14):
And I, I did work really, really hard in that initial time. So for at least the first six months, it was very long hours every day, seven days a week, really trying to throw myself into it. And that it was a very formative time for me. And then I sort of, I think also I started to grow in competence. I started to see that I could actually make a contribution. Once I started to see that I could make a contribution, I grew in confidence about what I could do. I free myself even more into it. And also it was just the whole atmosphere. You know, there was a lot of very driven, good post-docs around me, Harvard itself. I mean, every week there’d be a lecture by a president or prime minister or someone who’s won a Nobel prize and I’ll be from going though all these stuff, you know, it was, people were passing through the land, people who who you know, real leaders in science would just come to give a talk to our lab. And I was like, this is mad that like, this guy could be selling out to like 600 people. And here he is in our lab, talking to us over bunch of donuts to the 20 of us in the lab. And that was just,

Peter O’Toole (00:35:20):
But you just said there, you got presidents and prime ministers come and go and you know, and they know lots about science. Did you really just quote that in the current climates?

Dan Davis (00:35:30):
No, no, no, no. They didn’t know a lot about science. There were great scientific leaders coming through, but there were also all this external program of, of, of stuff, you know, in the, in the Harvard campus. I mean, I loved it. It was, it’s just brilliant.

Peter O’Toole (00:35:44):
So it was always aimed to be a short burn over there. What did you think you might settle over there?

Dan Davis (00:35:50):
So I stayed in the US for three and a half years and then came back to start my own lab. So I did just do one post doc before setting up my lab. I, I would have stayed there. I think, the, but my girlfriend at the time in, in Boston who came out from the, from the UK and she’s now my wife, he, she, she wanted to definitely come back to the UK and, and some of that was about if we have kids, then they want to be near the grandparents. And, it’s a bit hard. That’s, that’s, that’s the story we tell the problem with these, some of these things he’s, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s how I said it. That’s how she says it, but now I don’t know, because that’s the stuff that’s I can, Now. We say that I can’t actually remember, you know, whatever it is 20 years ago, if that’s actually definitely how I was thinking, but I could have stayed in Boston. I know that I know that I definitely always have a great affinity for the, the bars and, the can do attitude of, of, of the, of, of the great lives in the US I always, I always have a great affinity to that.

Peter O’Toole (00:36:56):
So you see, you’ve collaborated with loads of people. You came back to Imperial, you obviously have close collaborations there as well. How do you, I have not asked, it’s been, how would you compare the culture in the research labs in the US compared to the UK?

Dan Davis (00:37:09):
Well, I mean, you know, it’s hard because I’m also thinking about when I was really working there was some years ago now, so it’s a bit hard to know in general. But I do, I think that there’s some truth, all the stereotypes around that, that in a sense that the US probably is a bit more competitive, it can be quite harsh environment. But also there is a greater sense of of a can-do attitude. It can be true that people have huge labs with, you know, 40 people. I mean, the lab was in Jack Stominger. I had a lab of 20 where I was, and he had another lab of 20 people over at the medical campus of Harvard. So, so I think all of those stereotypes are true and it suits some people maybe doesn’t suit others. I mean, I really thrived in it, because I I’ve really just loved the buzz of it.

Dan Davis (00:37:57):
I mean, yes, people working very long hours, but I wanted to do that anyway. It was, it was just a really exciting time. So it’s a bit hard for me to know in general, because there’s all different kinds of labs. There’s a great diversity in who does science and how but I think, I think I, I naturally [inaudible] the model of the LMB, for example, will be very different where you, the labs tend to be much smaller, much more, much more focused. And, and, you know, you can’t argue that the N and P hasn’t done enormous achievement throughout the history of science. So there’s lots of different ways in which I think you can succeed. I mean, but what I think is also really paramount important is you just stay focused on the actual science. You know, I, I would be wary of, of some structures where there is a tendency to empire build and you gain kudos by having lots of people, having lots of money, having lots of interactions. And so some of that’s probably true in the UK and the US so you’ve got to stay as long as you’re focused on that. You’re really, you know, the science you really want to do. There are lots of ways in which you can succeed in a fund.

Peter O’Toole (00:39:04):
No, I can see the appeal over a short burn, three to three and a half years. I, I, I was nearly, I nearly bent over to US, myself. And then the job at York came up and well, Oh, I can’t say that because the in-laws are probably going to watch it, but there both further away from the in-laws. I am joking [inaudible] completely. So I saw the appeal for it, but actually I had a young child at the time. And the York offer was, was, was really good for myself. And it was about a work-life balance. And actually I really fancy the hard burn. And so I came to your can just put the hard burn in the UK and probably regret. I don’t know, I don’t regret putting in loads fairly fuzzy. The family memories back at that time were very fuzzy because I put so much effort into my work. So the work-life balance was probably a bit biased the wrong way at the time but I think I had to do that to, to create the career that I wanted to create. So it is possible, but long-term the life work that work-life balance say back in the UK, you’ve got two children as well. how do you feel that that compares and how did you balance that even today, your work life balance?

Dan Davis (00:40:20):
Yeah, I think that’s, that’s a really hard, I, I find it really hard to do everything I want to do, be a dad, a husband, a scientist, and write up wherever I want to do. I find it hard to switch between all those and keep them all going. I think what I’ve learned to do during my career, which is the one small, more sort of wisdom that I might have for anyone starting out is, is say no to the stuff you don’t want to do so if you can, if you can, of course, you know, so a lot of people might take on more administrative work in a university, for example, I mean, being a head of department or, and there’s some great, reason to do that because you need, you want great scientists to be head of department and drive things, and you want people to, be in positions of, of influence over, for example, maybe, maybe the grant, right?

Dan Davis (00:41:21):
The grant assessment process are going to be heads of panels and things. And there’s so much you can do actually in science, right? So from teaching to research, to writing, to, to going in the public, to being on TV, there’s so much you could do. So you have to really, you have to really decide what it is, is the core thing you actually really, really want to do, and just stay focused on that because there’s a lot of distractions and there’s a lot of things come at you. And also people are quite persuasive in trying to make you to do things. Oh, it’d be really good for you to be on this panel, that panel, the other panel, or, you know, you know, you’ve committed to doing reviews on three papers for PNAS and Nature, whatever, and then you get another one from science. You’re like, well, I already reviewing three. Maybe I won’t do that one. So I think getting that balance right for yourself is really important and it’s okay. It’s okay to say no to some things.

Peter O’Toole (00:42:15):
Yeah. And especially if you reason it as well. So I’ll always go back and explain why I have to say no, I think that’s good, but thank you for not saying no to doing, to doing today.

Dan Davis (00:42:26):
Well Pete. I did, actually, in your first email say no, you were very persuasive. You sent, you sent me an email, but it was a time that I was like madly busy with something else. And I thought you needed it to be done in 10 seconds. I was like, ah, and then, then you clarified and said, Oh no, no. I said, okay. Yeah, great. This is great. I actually, I do think this is brilliant. What your doing. I think it’s really great to have a Look at microscopist as people and see what everyone’s doing. And I’ve watched the, the three that are publicly available. I know you’ve recorded some others, but the ones that I’ve watched, the ones that part of that is great. It’s great stuff. And I think it’s great. Well done well done to you, you and the team behind you.

Peter O’Toole (00:43:08):
Otherwise, I’m going to start to go red on there. This lighting will never show it. So stop there. But I wasn’t getting that.

Dan Davis (00:43:14):
You might run out of microscopy, so you might have to call it the microscopist and something else and something else and something else then. Yeah,

Peter O’Toole (00:43:21):
Trust me. I will keep this swift and all can actually copy it down. But now the list is huge. It’s amazing. Just how many photos,

Dan Davis (00:43:29):
Just so all the people that said no, then you add me at the, on the, on the bottom there. That was like the last resort scraping the barrel for someone to talk to.

Peter O’Toole (00:43:37):
And I wasn’t, I wasn’t going to give up on you Dan. Like it was great. You know, there’s a lot of microscopists, so I, I would you an immunologist first and foremost, you just, you know, done a lot of your research using the microscope. And I think that was a really good to have in there. So you talk about

Dan Davis (00:43:55):
Eric Betzig, many of your listeners have mixing, right? You’ve got the Nobel prize. He, he he’s he always says that the that the labels are not useful. You know, he says he w he won the Nobel prize for chemistry, I think. Right. And, you know, he doesn’t you know, he’s, he’s a microscopist is he a physicist? He says himself, you know, he doesn’t know a lot of chemistry. I’m not saying he, I’m not saying that. I reckon he does. He says he doesn’t. And yet he won the Nobel prize for chemistry. So all of these labels,

Peter O’Toole (00:44:27):
We have to get Eric to do one of these big target in my sights at the moment. So what do you do outside of work? What are your interests?

Dan Davis (00:44:38):
Well I mean I, I obviously I do write stuff. Writing is quite a significant part of my life.

Peter O’Toole (00:44:49):
Did you count that as one of your hobbies is actually the, the, the, the writing itself

Dan Davis (00:44:57):
More than a hobby to me, because it’s quite important to me. So I’d say it’s more than a hobby but it’s but it’s certainly outside the normal. A lot of it is outside the sort of nine to five structure of, of whatever normal day may or may not be. So

Peter O’Toole (00:45:13):
Put up here is I think your first publication, first book, more gen, this is more of a lay person or general public.

Dan Davis (00:45:21):
Yeah. So that was one first compatibility gene. so that’s that’s yeah, that’s, that’s, the first one I wrote, that’s really the story of MHC, but, you know, it’s hopefully hopefully written in a more general way than that and then I, right. Yeah. so that was important to me to, to do that story. it was important to me because it’s about human diversity. essentially that’s one of the most wonderful things about the immune system that the, the genes that vary the most between every single person on the planet, is nothing to do with how you look like, u, to do with the immune system. And to me, that was such an important message that I had to get out there that no one seemed to be writing about. So that’s essentially what led me to write the book. Um, then after that I wrote another one called the beautiful cure. yeah, so this

Peter O’Toole (00:46:13):
Beautiful book cover by the way, green, yellow as well. In fact, have you got that on your bookshelf behind you?

Dan Davis (00:46:22):
I can’t maybe. Is it maybe probably forward? I got the yellow version. Yeah. So, yeah, so then I wrote about the immune system in general. So this was, this was a book about, you know, the need for both of these books. I interviewed, you know, 30, 40 people to, to get a sense of what they did.  yeah. So, so this book is really about how the immune system works, hopefully for genuine audience. it’s done. Yeah. I mean, it’s been really fun for me to do that, you know, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s done quite well. It’s been translated to 15 languages. It got to number four on all the books on Amazon. So it’s there, it’s done quite well. But, and then, yeah, so writing is really important to me because, I enjoy it. It gives me a chance to, to think about things in a broad way and also I find that the act of writing by articulating things in, in writing it, I get generates new ideas. It generates me, it helps the thought process. So, so I love doing that. you know, and then outside that, I mean, you know, I have two teenage kids w you know, we do stuff with them and stuff.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:31):
Gotcha. I generally find a caffeine sleep deprivation and alcohol is the best way to get inspiration breeze, the mind of all the shackles of everything else that you’ve been through. And that’s it. So thinking about your books moving on here, what is the fave, your favorite publication? Where do you have authored or co-authored it?

Dan Davis (00:47:55):
How many am I allowed? Just one.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:57):
I give you two, I’ll give you two and why?

Dan Davis (00:48:02):
All right. Well, I suppose the first that the my publication of the natural killer cell immune signups was, was something I was proud of. I was proud of at the time it felt like I really contributed something that was, that was useful. That was in 99 nine, the, just the discovery of nanotubes or the, the co-discovery of nanotubes, I guess. So I was proud of that because it was, I felt it was novel. It was new, it was something that could be really important. And that was, that was when I was sort of the first paper was my, I was doing the work in the lab, but these other papers around nanotubes were done by many great postdocs and students in my lab team, Björn önfelt Stephanie Sowinsky and Siobhan, and several others led that work.

Dan Davis (00:48:51):
And so I’m, I’m proud of doing that. And then, and then it is true that writing those two books and I’ll have a third one out next year. So the writing, writing books, I’m proud of because, because in a way, one of the, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s something you do that’s that has a uniqueness to it. So one of the really great struggles for any scientist, I think is that, although you’re going to your, your, your pushing you’re, you’re giving up a lot of your life to make this contribution to push forward the knowledge. Sometimes it’s just a case that you, if you didn’t do that, someone else would have done it anyway. And maybe in six months time, maybe in a year’s time, whereas when you’re writing books and you’re putting your blood into that book, there’s something about the fact that, you know, no one else would have done it or done it in that way. That is more, there’s a little bit more of you in that. Um, so that, so I’m proud of those of the books. I mean, I’m not saying that they’re great books, I’m just saying I’m proud of having to manage to do that.

Peter O’Toole (00:49:55):
Oh, God, look how well and receive they are. They they’re hugely well received. And actually, I, I need to draw up another picture thinking about your books. Obviously they see this has gone mainstream. It’s not just amongst the scientific community. And so this is you at the hay festival, is that correct? And, and we, we, this is obviously an international audience. Can you explain the hay festival and who you’re sitting with?

Dan Davis (00:50:21):
Yeah. Oh yeah. As well. So in this particular picture, you’ve got I’m beside Adam Rutherford, who does he’s well known in the, in the UK, his work on radio TV. And he’s also published several books himself. And I mean that, I am, I love that that interaction, you know, I I do strongly think that science should be part of our culture in a very general way and so I do really enjoy being part of the Hay festival is the most favorite event that we go to every year we’ve been going, what me and my family have been going every year for at least the last 10 years. Initially we just, we just went as just, just to enjoy it, just to have fun. It’s like a, about a 10 day long thing with, I don’t know how many lectures, 600 lectures, let’s say probably a lot more, you know, several tents. It’s like a real. It’s a real festival. I think something like 250,000 people go every year. and

Peter O’Toole (00:51:16):
This isn’t a music festival, but

Dan Davis (00:51:18):
It does have music in it, but it’s true that most of it is about talks and ideas. And I’ve sit, you know, lots of Nobel prize winners go, lots of politicians go lots of science, scientists, science is that significant part of it as a lot of great fiction writers people. It’s, it’s really, I love it. And I love that. I love the interactions.

Peter O’Toole (00:51:40):
I’ve always wondered at a book festival. If everyone just sits down and just read a book quietly, completely different to a music festival.

Dan Davis (00:51:48):
Yeah. It’s usually interactive. And yeah, I, I, you know, I saw, I initially used to go a lot just, just to have just cause it’s so much fun and now, but now also, cause I do stuff in it and I’m chairing events and giving my own thoughts. So now I get a little bit behind the scenes. I mean, I’m not like immersed in it in any, in any profound way, but you know, at least getting you to get to go to the green room and and then you meet, you need to meet all these people that are quite inspirational. I love that. And I love going to festivals and I’ve done things that other, other more music orientated. I love the engagement, the interaction with people and the interaction with people is what makes, what makes it great, fun, both science and literary events and music events, all of this stuff. So, yeah, it’s a huge part. It’s a huge part of what I think is really good. Fun to do.

Peter O’Toole (00:52:43):
So I’m sorry. I’m moving on swiftly, because you said that you got all sorts of polit politicians and everything. And yet I guess if the politician doesn’t come to you later into, this is a picture of you outside number 10 Downing street. So

Dan Davis (00:52:55):
Yeah. Yeah. So there’s, you know, so I think, you know, so certainly not, you know, we published there’s certainly not because of our latest research, unfortunately. I mean, other than, you know, I guess the government isn’t necessarily hanging on our latest scientific paper, but I think because I wrote books that are hopefully reasonably accessible about how the immune system works and things like that. I have, I have ended up getting immersed in, in other things. And I, I know, and I enjoy that. And I also think that it’s important for science and scientists to interact as widely as possible with the world that’s out there. It’s not that I have, I don’t have any influence whatsoever. This was just a, an event Downing street that happened in the beginning of the year. But, but, but it’s that interaction that engagement which is which comes from, I mean, it was very scary in the beginning.

Dan Davis (00:53:50):
You know, when I first thought I wanted to write a book, I was really quite scared about how others would view me, which is obviously a bit of a silly way to look at things. But but I did think that all the scientists might be angry, they might be angry for any number of reasons. Firstly, they might think if you’ve got time to sit around writing books, then obviously, you know, 120% on the research. So why are we going to fund your next grant? And I also thought that you know, so I was a bit worried about how this would all play out, but I have to say that now that I have done these kinds of things, it’s it couldn’t be more wonderful. I mean, I still do get some antagonism from other scientists over things over sort of public outreach work, but overall it’s been hugely positive. And and I like interacting with everything that’s out.

Peter O’Toole (00:54:42):
I have to point out that you stood outside 10 Downing street in a suit.

Dan Davis (00:54:46):
Yeah, I wore a suit. So I think I have to check. I think that’s the same suit that, you know, I have a suit, I have a suit, I have three shirts that are all pale blue. I have a suit and a, I think that that’s the same suit I’ve worn for other know how long but I did put on the suit for that event

Peter O’Toole (00:55:07):
I did he tell you at the start? You haven’t changed, but the suit, was very different compaired to t-shirts jumper? No. No, I think I probably have two that fit properly. Yeah. I’ve got a lot of early nineties style that, that a bit too big on me now,

Dan Davis (00:55:30):
But after lockdown, I’ll be worried about getting into any suit.

Peter O’Toole (00:55:36):
We’ve gone through that. I’ll tell you a quick one. What, how much time do you spend in the lab?

Dan Davis (00:55:43):
Oh the actual doing the pipetting. Yeah. Oh, i hate it. Oh, I’ve always hated lab work. Oh. So I never I never did. I never really wanted to do lab work. So yeah. So, you know, so I went to the US and did this postdoc for three and a half years. Obviously it was, that was all intense. That was all lab work but I mean then when I came back, I did the experiments for some years, but I’ve, I’m not a huge fan of doing the actual experiments for me. It’s about thinking about the experiments. What do they mean? What, what should we do? What would we do next? Is that well controlled? How’s it going to work out? It’s, it’s the, it’s an intellectual feast to have all these people come to me with, with, with what they’re doing and discussing that. And I’ve never, never really been, I don’t need to be, I don’t feel a need to be pipetting the samples myself.

Dan Davis (00:56:37):
I know I’ve

Dan Davis (00:56:38):
Never, I didn’t, I never really enjoyed that. I always enjoyed the, the thinking and the brainstorming and the buzz of it and the, and the, what does it mean? And that’s, that’s what I, that’s what I, that’s always the way I wanted to have a lab.

Peter O’Toole (00:56:51):
So you don’t miss a lab that’s blatantly obvious then.

Dan Davis (00:56:54):
Yeah, no, I definitely don’t miss the lab.

Peter O’Toole (00:56:56):
The lab, no lab. So you’re definitely office run on the labs. What about US or UK quick answer, which is best US UK.

Dan Davis (00:57:03):
Well, they, they just both have different things about them right now, right now looking at the leadership in each country. Well, yeah, that’s true.

Dan Davis (00:57:12):
Well, I dunno, I dunno.

Peter O’Toole (00:57:17):
Okay. London or Manchester, London or Manchester.

Dan Davis (00:57:22):
Well, that’s also tricky. So I missed

Peter O’Toole (00:57:26):
That as a politician. I love

Dan Davis (00:57:28):
The art and culture and buzz of London is second to none. I absolutely love it. And I desperately miss it in Manchester, but in Manchester

Dan Davis (00:57:38):
You know, the

Dan Davis (00:57:39):
Air’s a bit cleaner we’re right next to the Peak district. So it’s beautiful and there’s a slightly different tone to when people come in and out of work. I haven’t just done a hectic commute on the tube. It’s a little bit more relaxed. So there are pros and cons. I actually genuinely love them both.

Peter O’Toole (00:57:55):
I’m not going to ask my next question because researcher or author and we have to be so careful. Cause you said you met with some antagonism and I think it’s true. Any celebrity scientist immediately seems to polarize the science community between those who think they’re doing a great service and great work and others that think I it’s almost like turning to the dark side. And I think it’s really hard because they’re great communicators. Okay.

Dan Davis (00:58:23):
Well, I think, I think actually especially as, as as I, as people’s journeys in science progress, everyone does broaden what they do. To some extent, you know, you start off just doing your experiments in your lab as a PhD student, then you broaden it as a, as a post-doc you, you supervise others and you broaden what you’re doing then as a PI. You now have quite a lot of collaboration, disparate projects. And then as your time as a PI goes on, you often tend to also broaden what you do you would interact with. For example, become getting panels on national committees. You would have set the agenda in various strategic things, either in your university or with industry or with so everyone broadens what they do. And so, so it’s definitely important to me that it’s not an either or thing that it’s you know, I, I want to be a, I want to do research. That’s totally top priority to me, but it’s also true that I take writing quite seriously. It’s not, I’m not here just to [inaudible] about,

Peter O’Toole (00:59:25):
Okay, I’m going to very quickly. I want to get to know you a bit better now. So DVD or cinema or streaming at home and cinema. Oh my God. How old fashioned DVD stream at home or cinema cinema,

Dan Davis (00:59:39):
Cinema but not with COVID.

Peter O’Toole (00:59:41):
Okay. Film more TV,

Dan Davis (00:59:45):
120%. Film. What’s your favorite film? Oh, I dunno. I used to say dead poet’s society, but again, it’s kind of a reflex. So I dunno, I’d have to think about it, but I also love 2001 Dead Poet’s society was what I often say is my favorite film. Favorite Christmas film. I’ve got no idea, but very recently when I saw my son for the first time watched Die Dard with us and it was kind of fun.

Peter O’Toole (01:00:15):
It’s one of the best Christmas films that I Love Actually, I think 50, 50, I’m not sure which I prefer. Maybe can’t get much more contrasting the two can you. Eat in or eat out under normal times.

Dan Davis (01:00:27):
Eat in.

Peter O’Toole (01:00:29):
Cook or wash up.

Dan Davis (01:00:31):
Oh, just stick it in the microwave. And hopefully it’s in a disposable bowl.

Peter O’Toole (01:00:40):
Oh, I haven’t got a comeback on that one. Okay. Yeah, no, this has got to be a real challenge. What’s your funniest science joke.

Dan Davis (01:00:49):
Oh, I don’t have one. I don’t have a science joke. Me

Peter O’Toole (01:00:57):
What? The funniest joke. Just in general.

Dan Davis (01:00:59):
Oh, a man walks into a bar and ouch. I’m not a Comedian who came up with these questions is what I want to know.

Peter O’Toole (01:01:15):
I only told my child, I told him my youngest son that joke only this week.

Dan Davis (01:01:19):
Yeah. I mean, well, I dunno, you know, if you, if you go through, do we don’t go questions from the audience. I’m sure that’d be better than this Pete.

Peter O’Toole (01:01:29):
Okay. Cause we are out of time. So very quickly. What, what, what’s the next big science question to solve in one sentence?

Dan Davis (01:01:42):
I think it’s, I think it’s about human diversity. Well, there’s so many, I mean, there’s sleep, there’s aging, but also I think diversity is actually really important. We don’t have a good handle on what the differences between people really mean in, in, especially in immune systems in health. As you know, there’s a lot to go and it’s going to be culturally very important to think about this in a deep way.

Peter O’Toole (01:02:09):
I’m still thinking about your bar joke

Dan Davis (01:02:18):
I did the worst job, I bet you got better jokes from every other person.

Peter O’Toole (01:02:20):
It’s the first time i’ve asked that question. Hopefully they last. I’m going to keep that one. What’s the, what, what tech, what, what technology needs to be developed to help you move forward? What’s the next big technology development that you need to help solve and move forward?

Dan Davis (01:02:39):
Well, the, the, the biggest bottleneck in, in the type of thing we do is, is like I alluded to before. It’s where it’s, I mean, there are two things. One is the complexity of what we look at is still a problem. We’re still very often looking at individual cells, groups of cells. And it needs to be a more physiological environment that we’re tackling these questions in. But really what we need is nanoscale imaging, in 3d, in, in, in an animal or human, which is a pipe dream. But don’t forget when your career, my career started, it would have been a pipe dream to have a white light laser source. It would have been a pipe dream to have nano scale imaging, pretty much routine in, in order to universities. So, you know, these pipe dreams can happen in, in years decades to come. It takes a spark, a few, you know, some of these people that we mentioned during this, the people that develop super-resolution microscopy are truly inspirational. So yeah, I can’t do that kind of, that kind of level of step change. But that’s, that’s where we got to be going.

Peter O’Toole (01:03:44):
No, I think, yeah, nothing is impossible. I don’t think it just takes time and money and you make, take many centuries or more, but I think we’ll get there, especially on that front, Dan, our time is up. I’m really, gosh, we could do another hour. I have loads of questions I didn’t get through, but do you know what? It’s been a great chat with you, Dan. Thanks for catching up.

Dan Davis (01:04:05):
All right. Thanks so much and and hope to see you in person sometime soon. Brilliant. Thank you very much. Okay. Cheers. Bye.

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