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Sir Jeremy Farrar (Wellcome Trust)

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About this episode

#35 — You’re in for a treat in this episode of The Microscopists as we’re joined by Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome. We learn more about Jeremy’s work as an infectious diseases specialist, his rugby- and cricket-playing pedigree, being a member of SAGE during COVID, and unusual wallpapers. In this inspiring episode, Jeremy also reveals his ideal dinner party guests, how to cope with imposter syndrome, the wonders of All-Bran, and how he stays curious. Tune in to hear more!

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This is an automated transcript and may not be 100% accurate.

Intro/Outro (00:00:02):
Welcome to The Microscopists, a Bitesize Bio podcast hosted by Peter O’Toole, sponsored by Zeiss Microscopy. Today on The Microscopists.

Peter O’Toole (00:00:14):
Hello, I’m Peter O’Toole from University of York. And today on The Microscopists, I’m joined by Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, and one of the government advisors, when it came to dealing with COVID and today we’ll discuss things such as the roll of science and the art in bringing people together

Jeremy Farrar (00:00:32):
Should never underestimate the role that culture can play in bridging divides that politicians and politics makes difficult,

Peter O’Toole (00:00:41):
Very unusual wallpapers in very odd places.

Jeremy Farrar (00:00:44):
The toilet of every house we lived in the walls were covered in cutout pages with poetry. I mean, it sounds bizarre now

Peter O’Toole (00:00:53):
The importance of always staying curious,

Jeremy Farrar (00:00:56):
I am still as curious about stuff today as, as a seven year old, I still as excited by the by questions as I was as an undergraduate,

Peter O’Toole (00:01:09):
How to negotiate big choices.

Jeremy Farrar (00:01:11):
And I think when you’re faced with a fork in the road take the less well-traveled one

Peter O’Toole (00:01:19):
At the importance of never giving up,

Jeremy Farrar (00:01:21):
Did not get the grades first time round at A level. And so that, you know, having, you know, that’s a pretty hard wall that you hit

Peter O’Toole (00:01:31):
All in this episode of The Microscopists

Peter O’Toole (00:01:44):
Hi, welcome to The Microscopists, I’m Peter O’Toole from University of York. And today I’m joined by Jeremy Farrar. How’s Director of the Wellcome Trust here in the UK. Jeremy. Good morning.

Jeremy Farrar (00:01:57):
Thanks very much for the invitation. I I’m a lot more nervous than you are. So

Peter O’Toole (00:02:02):
We were just chatting before, and actually this is one of the most, I’m not usually nervous and actually today I’m, I’m not intimidated. Maybe that’s the wrong term, but I kind of have you so up here and giving your time is actually really appreciated. So I realize your diary’s gotta be one of the busiest of the people I’ve ever met with before. So actually for those who are listening, Jeremy is involved in an awful lot of things from being Director to the Wellcome Trust which actually Jeremy go on, you still have the Wellcome Trust because we have a lot of listeners outside of the UK. Tell them what the Wellcome Trust is about.

Jeremy Farrar (00:02:38):
It’s I remember when I, when I was first taking over it Wellcome many years ago, Peter my mother had never heard of it. So that, that I think tells you that it, that, you know, of course I’m very biased, but, but I think the Wellcome Trust is a pretty important organization, obviously. So it was set up actually originally in the 1930s by Henry Wellcome who set up a foundation. Interestingly, the foundation owned a company in the 1930s called Wellcome. It was a therapeutic pharmaceutical company. Then in the 1980s, he, he sadly died in the 1930s and left no, no descendants, no children or siblings or parents, whatever. So and then in the 1980s the foundation completely separated from any links to any company. It got [Inaudible] separated completely. And so since the 19 early 1990s, it’s been a separate, completely independent foundation based in the UK, but with a global organization, it now has an endowment, which is what drives our ability to fund things and grant things and supports science and culture and society work of about 37, 38 billion pounds. And we support science. We support cultural work. We support the history of science all around the world.

Peter O’Toole (00:04:02):
So I think that’s interesting. So obviously UK are a great benefactor the research community, but also the overseas element. So what proportion goes to overseas funding compared to UK funding

Jeremy Farrar (00:04:15):
It’s changing and, and Henry Wellcome left a will. And we in, but the trustees were very well-governed. I have to say, pay tribute to the, to the board that oversees what I do and the team does. But Henry was a globalist, I mean, Henry Wellcome was committed to global affairs really before that became a trendy thing. And so, and certainly in the last eight years with my own interests in global affairs, and I would argue because of the political nature of our time and the great concerns I have about nationalism and, and becoming more insular Wellcome is taking a more global perspective. So historically it would be about 70% UK, Peter, and 30% overseas. But actually if you, not so much where money is awarded, but where money is is focused, it’s probably now about 65, 35 or roughly that sort of percentage 65 in the UK, 35 internationally.

Peter O’Toole (00:05:16):
And, and that, and that is, I know from some of the research happening at York, that, that touches on Africa in many developing countries as well, and actually having reviewed some of the grants that come into Wellcome Trust. You see the applications also coming certainly from Africa, South Africa seems to be quite a good area of awareness that they can apply for these funds as well. So I it’s a big role being Director with The Wellcome Trust. A lot of it, I guess, is also communicating what it does, making sure people are aware of it. Why did you take it on, your academic career is stellar and it’s quite a sight. It’s a step to become Director of The Wellcome Trust. So what drove that ambition that that’s change in direction?

Jeremy Farrar (00:06:05):
Yeah, I, I think your career as well, Peter, I mean, I think you, you sort of think things are planned, but the reality is they’re not you know, I don’t how, well I speak personally. I, I don’t I don’t think any of us have a clear vision of where we want to go. I’m not a person that wrote on the back of the envelope when I was, when I was a seven year old that I wants to be Direction Wellcome or, or President of United States or something. I had been in working in Vietnam since 1995, 1995 to 2013, 18 years living in Vietnam. And I think there is a, there’s a sort of optimal time of being Head or Director of something. I, I think it can be too short. So I think four or 5, 6, 7 years is too short and I probably think actually 18 is too long, too long for the people you work with too long for your ability to see where your, new things are, you, you, we all get stuck in our ways. And so when I, wasn’t thinking of leaving Asia at all, I was thinking of staying there, you know, to the rest of my career. And it was a wonderful place to be based. But then the opportunity came up and after 18 years in Vietnam, you know, you thought is this time I was in early fifties then is this time for a change? And I thought I was coming back in 2013 to to a very sort of cosmopolitan European outward looking country. The 18 years I’ve been away, the food had got a lot better. The, you know, I, I, I think Britain was on a very optimistic way. And of course I hope it still is, but there’s been profound political changes since I’ve been back in the UK. And it it’s been a period of great turmoil, I think, and uncertainty over the last six or seven years. So it feels very different. I’m not saying better or worse, but just different now,

Peter O’Toole (00:07:59):
But I, I think the food is still getting better and the drink is also getting better. I think those certain things has certainly improved. And yeah, I would say actually, I’m a science should work without borders. You know, it’s the most efficient way of working. So whatever the political climate is, no matter what happens in politics, we need to keep those borders removed when it comes to science. I think that’s what you were kind of saying with The Wellcome Trust is very much enabling that.

Jeremy Farrar (00:08:28):
Yeah, I think, yeah, I would even push it further than that. Peter, actually I think again, you know, looking back over history, politics works in its own way and, and, you know, that’s, that’s very difficult to understand, I think when you’re not in the political system but we should never underestimate the role that culture can play in bridging divides that politicians and politics makes difficult. You know, I, I, whether that is the arts or it’s sport or it’s science, I think we, we in the scientific community, I think I’ve got a, a really important role to play and, and a constructive one in bridging divides, which maybe politicians for other reasons find difficult. So it’s not just that in my view, that science in abs absolutely agree with you works best across borders and open and sharing and sharing the benefits of science. But I think we’ve got almost a bigger responsibility to make the case for that and across borders and, and for more in a less inequitable world. And I think science has got a really important role to play in that.

Peter O’Toole (00:09:37):
It’s interesting talking about making the case for it, I guess. Jan Ellenberg when, when I spoke to him, he, to, he promoted Euro Bio-imaging and was championing that and had great political problems actually delivering it and it, without putting too much detail into it you know, he suddenly realized that politicians have agendas that don’t necessarily fit what is logical of approving case scientifically and their after their after, maybe that own interests politically rather than what is, again, a, a judgment on what’s written down. Like we would for a scientific case, how, how do you get the politicians on side? It’s such a complicated game because obviously polit politicians, there’s two sides to every one and you’ve got to get both really on side otherwise where powers shift suddenly you’ve on the wrong side and we need them both to be party to the visions to how, how how’d you manage that complexity?

Jeremy Farrar (00:10:38):
I, I don’t, I don’t know the answer to that. What, what I’m very sure of, cause you can’t ignore it. You, you, I don’t think, I’m not saying everything is political, but, but you can’t ignore that political space. And I, and I also, I think when in a more charitable moments, I think really appreciating how difficult politics is, you know, you’re your an particularly, I think in today’s world, although I suspect it was always true, you know, we, we are in quite a fragmented polarized world and social media is changing that and, and the way things are expressed are changing that I think we’re living through quite a period of uncertainty, of anxiety, of, of inequality and poli and politics, and politicians are human. And they’re trying to broker this complex world, which they don’t necessarily understand. They’re not super human. They’re not, they’re just you and me. Who’ve chosen a different career. And I think I do have at least some sympathy for the political process and for individuals. And we must never forget politicians are human. They have the same foibles weaknesses insecurities that you and I have. Having said that I, I think politicians need to bring a purpose to what they’re doing and, and a scientists, I think we need to not just think we can engage when we want to, or not just engage in the political process in a crisis like COVID or whatever. But I think we’ve got to see ourselves as being part of society, part of that political process and part of that political debate and the best way of doing that is to be part of that all the time. I mean you know, pay tribute to, to this sort of interview and all the others you’ve done. This is part of it. This is part of explaining, I think, to ourselves as well as everybody, whoever might be listening beyond the two of us to, to what each of the segments, I think we have to engage in that process the whole time.

Peter O’Toole (00:12:38):
Okay. So, so I’ve got so many questions, so many bits. So once in a while you said, you know, you never even been busy. This is where you’d be when you were seven years old. So actually, what did you want to be when you were 7, 10, 10 years old when you were very young?

Jeremy Farrar (00:12:54):
Really difficult to remember cause it wasn’t yesterday. I, I, I, I, I w I was born in Asia, which is one of the reasons I think probably for going back, I, I, I didn’t come my, my parents. My father was a prisoner of war for five and a half years during the second world war. I was the youngest of six children. So, so my, my parents were, I was the youngest of six. So, so by the time I was born they, they, you know, it’s unusual somebody of my actual age to have a a parent who was a prisoner of war for five and a half years. And then they left the UK in 19 what, 1949 or 1950 to live in the Yemen in and then came back to the UK in 1979. So I had a very moved a lot as a, as a, as a child. When I was seven or eight, actually at that stage, we were in the UK. I was at a primary school for a year or two. And in Southern England I was at that stage, I loved sport. I’m not sure. I, I knew I was never good enough to, to be a professional sports person, but I did love sport. And then at school high school actually I was, I was much more sort of had an affinity. As actually the rest of the family did to, to the arts, to English. I started off doing English History and Economics at A level, and then swapped over to doing biology, maths, and chemistry as playing a lot of sports and did not get the grades first time round at A level. And so had that, you know, having, you know, that’s a pretty hard wall that you hit and then you realize you’ve got to resit them and you have to take personal responsibility to that, but then that did work out. And so I, I, I’m not somebody that’s had a a sort of clear vision of, of where I want to be and do. And I, I’ve never really had that sort of, mid-teens actually perhaps linked to my past. I, I thought I was going to do Economics or, or Politics at University and, and do something very, very different. So I think

Peter O’Toole (00:15:05):
I I’ll dwell on the sport bit. What were your sports when you were at school? And then

Jeremy Farrar (00:15:10):
Like many, I started off at a primary school playing, playing soccer, but actually after primary school, I never played football again. I was then at school in Tripoli, Libya for many, for, for a long time. And, and actually it was brought up playing a combination of baseball and cricket because it was a big American, there was a big American school there at that time, early 1970s. But my father was a, a very, very, actually very good, but also very committed rugby league player was from Yorkshire and very committed rugby league player and cricketer. And so I actually then was brought up playing I played a lot of rugby and a lot of cricket and took to a pretty high level through high school. I, I and then through University, I continued playing rugby through university and, and played for whatever England students and England under 20 threes at that stage. And and, and, and cricket at I was really [Inaudible] off because I, I, cricket was actually my real love actually, but I I’ve, I, I played for England under 23 at rugby and I, but I failed to get into the England under nineteens cricket team. I, I failed at the final hurdle when the Southern stools played against the Northern schools. And to be honest, we were playing in a completely different league, they were so much better. So I never made that, but, but I’ve played a lot of sports all the way through it. I’m still playing cricket now. And I only stopped playing rugby 10 years, 10, 15, 12, 12 years ago.

Peter O’Toole (00:16:45):
Good grief. That’s quite a physical sport to keep up for that length of time.

Jeremy Farrar (00:16:50):
Yeah. Rugby has changed a lot though. I mean, I’m, I’m small. I mean, I, you know, rugby has changed so much now when I was playing you, you it wasn’t the physical game. It is today.

Peter O’Toole (00:17:01):
I’ve got to ask quickly batter, bowler.

Jeremy Farrar (00:17:04):
Batsman only batsman. Yeah. yeah. Or number three,

Peter O’Toole (00:17:12):
I was going to say one, two or three. So they go, I that’s brilliant. So it was interesting. You said you didn’t do too well at your A levels, and yet here you are at the top of the game, even though the A levels, first time didn’t pan out that well, but you, did you chose immunology? Did you, did you do a degree?

Jeremy Farrar (00:17:33):
Yeah. I thought

Peter O’Toole (00:17:35):
Degrees. That’s quite a specific subject. It’s not like a broad biology where caveat or biochemistry. This is even not quite,

Jeremy Farrar (00:17:43):
You mean a degree undergraduate level. Yeah, no. So I, so I when I eventually did get the grades that university for university, I then studied medicine at UCL and actually one of the really pivotal moments. Cause I do, I do believe that as you go through careers and life there are, everything matters, but I think there are certain moments that really do matter, when you sort of are faced with one of my favorite poems about roads diverging in a woods. My F my father was an English teacher. So throughout my childhood, I remember, I mean, this, I hope this is not doesn’t sound bad, but, but I remember always in the toilet of every house we lived in, the walls were covered in cutout pages with poetry. I mean, it sounds bizarre now. But I, one of my favorites is is two roads diverged in a wood. I, I, I do think occasionally in life, we are faced with choices and we make choices and they have quite a profound influence. So it’s not a one route you don’t choose this path or that path. And it’s everything else is closed off to you. I, I do believe there is more flexibility. I hope I’m right, then than people think, but I, but I do think you have ultimately choices. And when I was at University, the first two years, I found quite tough in medicine because, you know I felt a bit of an imposter. It failed my A levels. Everyone else seemed very clever and, and was hardworking. And the first two years were challenging, but I also, I’ve never been very good at learning long lists of things. And a lot of medicine is learning long lists of things. You know, where this muscle inserts or that nerve goes, and I was never brilliant to that. And then I had a year doing an extra degree and I worked with somebody who’s really been, I think still now pivotal in my own thinking called Cheryll Tickle, Cheryll Tickle worked in in the Middlesex. Then she went to Dundee. I think she’s now semi retired, at least in Bath, but she worked on chick chick limbugs develops first time I’d ever done any electro microscopy and the role of vitamin A and how it affects how limbugs develops. I mean, how could that, how far could that be from what I do today? But what Cheryll taught me is just the excitement of being on the edge of knowledge that actually medicine, which is largely about knowledge and proven information, but here in science, you could work at the edge of uncertainty. And actually that was very exciting. You didn’t know the answer, you didn’t, you didn’t know what was coming. And, and, and I found that very exciting. I used to argue a lot, not argue. I used to discuss a lot with my mother who was many things, but one of which was a pretty good artist. And I used to argue with her that science and art were actually very similar. You start with a blank canvas. She had no idea what she was going to paint. And, and, you know, to an extent in science, you have some idea, but often you don’t. And I love that uncertainty and Cheryll Tickle deserves enormous credit for what I then what I went on to do, because it opened up the idea that medicine wasn’t all about rote learning and lists. It was also about uncertainty.

Peter O’Toole (00:20:59):
Have you ever told her

Jeremy Farrar (00:21:00):
You have many times? No, I that’s a re that’s a really important point. I suppose, as you get a little bit older, what you under-appreciate is, is how how much is appreciated when you go back to somebody like Cheryll, and you say, Cheryll, that changed what I did, and it actually changed and, and acknowledge that. And, and too often, not in Cheryll’s case, but too often, you, you hear of you know, somebody passing on or you lose touch with them and you just never go back and acknowledge and thank them really. And, and I, yeah, so I, yeah, I have kept in touch with Cheryl, not every day, not every Christmas necessarily, but she’s very aware of the fact that that was a really important moment in my life and career

Peter O’Toole (00:21:48):
Kind of actually answers one of the questions I was going to ask, which is, you know, who’s been some of the most influential people in your lives, but actually I’m going to ask totally different questions about drinking. So what are you drinking at the moment?

Jeremy Farrar (00:22:00):
I’m drinking coffee. I’m a great fan of coffee my I give tribute heads, my wife, who’s from Vienna before I met my wife. I felt nestcafe was the height of coffee Gold Blend, big, a real special day. But, but Christy Anne taught me that there is such thing as good and bad coffee. And then I’ve been on it. I don’t know about you, but during lockdown of 2020, I found myself taking less exercise being, sitting in a room where you on that, where I am now. And I, I did put on weight and I found myself drinking four or five cappuccinos or lattes a day. And I, so I’ve moved to drinking expressos now. And but I made a great co yeah, exactly.

Peter O’Toole (00:22:48):
Actually I, I think I, no, I didn’t think I couldn’t swim for obvious reasons, but yeah. I found other exercises and running, of course we could still run and I just couldn’t find me my friend at a weekend, so we’d run opposite directions. So we’d just go past each other maybe now, just to make sure we were both okay. On the long distance runs. So we were keeping within, anyway, digression from it. So you can take as a child, you weren’t sure what he wants to be. There was sports, it was other things you could do any job in the world. Now, what would you do? What would you be?

Jeremy Farrar (00:23:28):
If you’re today, despite, and I’m sure this is true in you. It’s true in all of us, if we’re honest the challenges of it, and it is challenging all that all everybody’s job is challenging. I think if you asked me that today, I would do what I’m doing now, and that’s a huge privilege just to say that I think that not just through COVID, but generally science and culture is, is so important at the moment as I sort of grounding in a very uncertain and to some degree troubled world, whether it’s generational or racial or, or sexuality, whatever it is. I think we’re living through quite a profound time at the moment. And I think the privilege of, of being able to work at that cultural scientific interface and and on a global level is a, is a huge privilege what I would wish to do next I have no idea. You know, I won’t be at Wellcome forever. What I do next, I I’m, I’m not sure. But I, I would say, what would you down in your ideal job? It would be, I think making the case for the, for, for the international agenda that I think is so critical. And I think as the 21st century is going to be troubled unless we can work internationally because, you know, truly none of the challenges of 21st century are going to be answered by being nationalistic and insular. So I would, that’s what I would wish to do, I think,

Peter O’Toole (00:24:59):
And I I’ll go, I’ll go do a big plug. I think we’re not going to solve the answers without new technologies either, which seemed to be really driving science forward at the moment.

Jeremy Farrar (00:25:09):
Oh, I couldn’t, I couldn’t agree with you more. And we T I do think we, we often take that for granted and actually pay tribute here to some sort of people at Wellcome who’ve open my mind about that people like Mike Ferguson, who I’m sure you will know. And Michael Dunn within, within Wellcome, who just made the case that so many advances happen by technology advances, which then great people, particularly if we make it open to people use in ways that none of none, nobody at the start, whatever thoughts about and, and, and the culture and science, doesn’t, doesn’t just go in a straight line. It often goes into a series of steps. And then you look back and you say, gosh, it was because of that, that we, we changed, whether it’s electro microscopy that I did with Cheryl Tickle or, or Cryo EM that, that, you know, you and others are leading around at the moment, or the chemistry behind all of that.

Peter O’Toole (00:26:01):
I identify, I can ask this on here or be cheeky, obviously, Wellcome Trust to be, we have been huge benefactors from Wellcome Trust both in the academic research aspects, but also with the equipment investments sort of shared resource and we’ve NanoString came from that. We’ve had other microscope systems come from that, but I think that that’s now stopped at the moment it’s in flux. So it’s paused. Is there going to be something of an funding shared resources?

Jeremy Farrar (00:26:31):
Yeah, I, I don’t know. I will know. I will. We, we, we, you quite rightly said at the start of this, you can’t come on if you’re not prepared to answer questions and you’re right. So I, I think I don’t, I don’t think apology is, is the right word, but there’s a bit of that in this. And, and that is, I think, organizations sorry, I’m going to give you a sort of longer winded answer. I hope that’s all right. Well Wellcome has been in a extraordinary, strong position and pay tribute all to all of my predecessors in building the place that I then inherited. But I do feel that an independent charity with it all its own money needs to really challenge itself of what its place in the world is. Because, because when you are lucky enough to be largely giving away a lot of money, one, 1.2, 1.3 billion pounds a year you don’t have clients in the same way. You don’t have customers. You don’t have the corporate drivers. You don’t have the constructs that is in the academic world. That that is inevitably constrained. You don’t have the constraints of politics. And I think therefore you have to bring your own critique and you need to ask not where you are today, but where you wish to be five years, 10 years from now. And, and, and there’s no burning platform. There’s no reason to change necessarily because you and others sort of might be nice and say, you’re doing good things. I think you have to change before you need to change. Because if you go up that curve, you’re at the peak of whatever you’re doing, you will inevitably drift down again, unless you reinvigorate and re-energize, and that’s a very painful process. And where I bring the apology in is we have been going through that over the last, particularly the last two or three years. We’re coming through that now. And I do believe I would say this, of course, that we’re coming. We’re going to be stronger as a result of it. We, we will have, I believe, have more money. That’s a very positive thing. When I joined Wellcome the endowment, which drives us, stood at about, I think, 14 billion pounds today, it’s 36, 30 7 billion. Now it could become 14 again, and I lose sleep over that, but then it might become 50, who knows. And I think the restructuring will allow us and the technological work you did and the shared resources the bringing people together to, to invest, to share those resources whether it be technological, Cryo EM, or in things like buyer bank there will certainly be opportunities for that in the future. And I just hope that people will bear with us during this period of change, which I appreciate it’s really disruptive, particularly in COVID, but I do believe we will come out the other side as we are now in a stronger and better position to be what will be the first or the second or the third biggest philanthropic organization in the world,

Peter O’Toole (00:29:29):
Which should be, I, it will be exciting when those calls come back and hopefully you won’t have to wait too much longer to hear about them. You talked about politics earlier, and obviously so again, I know you have involvement with the COVID response as a country I I’ve, I’ve read part of your book, a Spike, I think it was called. And for those who are not familiar with UK, the UK has a Sage, a scientific advisory group of experts, which, which feeding that advice and helped direct how the government responds. So don’t tell the government what to do, but they give them all the advice and information that they be require in a digestible way. I think now you have the first on that Sage committee, I believe along with Chris Witty Neil Ferguson Patrick Vallance. What was it like at that moment? I would love to know. I think actually people would love to know what is it like to be in that inner sanctum of advisors so much pressure from everyone telling you your wrong outside of it as well, because they’ll chance their luck and come out with an opposite opinion. Cause it could be right, but tell us, well, I’d love to know what it’s like and what those meetings are like, what’s the pressure. How free-flowing is it? How argumentative is it, what is that atmosphere like? What’s it like being on stage?

Jeremy Farrar (00:31:01):
You, you, as you describe it is right, I mean, it was January 20, 20, early, January, 2020. And we’re now in November, today, November 21. I mean, it’s diff it’s very difficult to put that in context of what what’s that 20 months or, or 21 months or something of, of your life. I I’d still think actually as a societal global society where people will be talking about this in a hundred years time you know, I hope we never go through anything like this again, but we still talk about 1918 and the influenza pandemic of 1918. I mean, it’s, these are, these are huge moments in history. And I remember talking to a journalist, I think Tom Whipple, The Times in, I don’t know, February, March, April time of last year and saying we’re going through history. And when you look in you, you look back in history. If I read a history book and I, I love history. I read the history book of the previous events, whether it was my father’s generation of the war or, or the previous generation of his parents, of the first world war or, or the pandemic of 2018, you often read those books and it feels almost not romantic, but it feels sort of romantic in a way, gosh, they were living through that. And the reality is it’s horrible. You know, the, the, the change to all of our lives in the last two years has, has been profound and, and there’s been positives, you know, I’ve, I’ve been able to work from home. I’ve seen more of the family and the rest of the, but, but all of our worlds seems to have got smaller. You’re in your sitting room or living room or I’m in whatever room, I mean, and, and you talk about running with your friends and going in opposite directions. I mean, that’s unthinkable to in 2019, I would also pay enormous tribute. I mean, I, I cannot pay enough tribute to the leadership that was provided through Sage of Patrick Vallance and Chris Witty. I’m not saying I agreed with all of everything that was done throughout or whatever, that that’s not the point, but the leadership because leadership is not about always agreeing the leadership they provided, I think has been absolutely extraordinary. And I think the UK and indeed the world as being very fortunate that we just happened by chance to have those two in those positions. So, so being on stage was both a combination of some very tense discussions, some very profound disagreements at times. And, and, and both of them, particularly Patrick, I think deserves great credit for facilitating that and allowing that to come forward, it evolved over time. It’s not the same in, in, after 18 months that it was at the start. And I, and I think Patrick made a very important decision very early on that, unlike in the past the Sage minutes and all of the science behind it would be available to the whole of society almost immediately. And certainly as soon as was possible, that transparency, I think has been absolutely critical to allow people to challenge the advice, to challenge the thinking, to challenge the science and yes, provide alternative ideas. And sometimes that was very troubling when it seemed divorced from the evidence that was in front of us, but overall the piece, I think it was far, the positives far outweigh the negatives. And the second, the last thing I’d say is it’s, I think we need to going forward. We need to learn that and to appreciate that you cannot build that interrelationship between science and politics in a crisis.

Jeremy Farrar (00:34:29):
So that, so the scientific advice into government and by science, I mean, social sciences, biomedical sciences, whatever you call science culture as well, that has to be part of the civil service and political system, not just in a crisis, you kind of establish that trust in a crisis. It has to be there all the time. And it has to be part of the political process.

Peter O’Toole (00:34:50):
How stressful did you find it,

Jeremy Farrar (00:34:54):
Very stressful. I mean and, and not just the Sage environment, but, you know, I’ve talked about this in other places and yeah, in, in the book as well, it wasn’t just what was happening to the UK. It was, it was the, do you remember in January, 2020 the origins of the virus were, were very controversial, maybe remains so today we had a very tense standoff throughout 2020, particularly between the US and China between president Trump and the president, she, your, your, your you know, I’ve interfaced with policy and politicians through some aspects of my career, but never at that level, of course you, you, you feel caught in the, you know, particularly around say the origins of the virus that seemed to be pitting, you know, the whole of governments that, you know, huge governments, China, us and everybody else in the middle of it. Uh that’s very uncomfortable that, that, I mean, that’s an understatement. It was very stressful. Yeah. And I, I don’t lose sleep over many things. I, you know, I think when you train in intensive care and then medicine, you, you bring a certain protection of yourself. You, you can, somehow, you, you have to protect yourself. You have to have time away to, to, you have to protect yourself. And so I’ve, I’ve, I think I was able to do that, and I had a very supportive family, which makes a huge, huge difference, but there were times that yeah, I, I do not look, we’re very, very difficult. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:36:28):
I was going to come on, how did your family find it? Cause we’ve also aware the British had the press took a great interest in the committee members of Sage as well, and their backgrounds and everything counts. So were you aware of that going on in the background and this extra scrutiny of yourself as a, just as a member of Sage?

Jeremy Farrar (00:36:49):
Yeah, of course. And that’s, that is very very, that is very difficult. You know, when we were not yet, none of us are used to that celebrity sorts of, you know, when, you know, we’re not in the newspapers, we’re not in generally in the conversation around the newspapers where, where we’re not used to that, I think as a community. And and it’s both on the scientific level, advice level, but also it does cross across into the personal level. And w there were certainly times in 2020, particularly, and to some degree in 21, when that was very, very, very difficult particularly when it becomes very personal when it becomes personal, not just to you, but also crosses over into your family, you know, whether it be abuse on social media of your children or your wife or whatever and some of it you do learn to deal with it. Um and you get a lot of help including from the Sage system and the political system, civil service have been fantastic. I’d call out the civil servants who work have worked in this. They’ve been absolutely staggering in the roles they they’ve played in the support in this emotional and the rest of it. But yeah, it’s, it’s hard to take whether social media by email or, or other places of abuse or death threats, or, you know, people taking photographs outside the house or, or whatever that I don’t want to be melodramatic about it, but that that’s not a comfortable environment for any of us to be in. And it was there were very difficult times through it. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:38:27):
Any of them ever, any of your family ever suggested, maybe you shouldn’t be on stage and just, just cuts loose and get back to life, get back to concentrating just on The Wellcome Trust, your day job to those added pressures and stresses.

Jeremy Farrar (00:38:45):
The were times again, you know, that when I, when I thought of stepping away from Sage and in fact I’ve stepped away now for very different reasons. I, you know, after 20 months, I think, and the scientific advice, I think into government now is actually pretty clear these are now political decisions about the choices that are made, but I think the scientific advice helped that of course, uncertainty and 21 was much higher in a way. And there were times when I, as I’ve said, I was, I was very strongly opposed. I wonder what the role of scientific advice was when it, when it didn’t seem to be taken, particularly in the autumn of 2020, which I very strongly disagreed with, but actually it was more the family that said, are you better in or out? You know, what’s the point of leaving, you know, leaving in October as I did, 21 was a very relaxed affair. And, and it, it, you know, it shouldn’t be interpreted in any other way than I felt that the scientific advice was, was now pretty clear and that it’s not that there was no role, but actually my contribution was, was pretty small. And it was a good time to, to, to concentrate on the day job as you said, but, but actually the, the, the discussions at home and in others that, you know, I’ve respected and listened to and took advice from and, you know, pay tribute to the Chair of Wellcome, who was absolutely wonderful in the support Eliza Manningham-Buller through all of this. And of course her own steep experience. Then MI5, when she was there before being chair of welcome, she was an absolute, wonderful mentor and supporter through this through some difficult times, but no, the family advice actually was much more like, you know, Christy Anne is, is Austrian and, and very clear thinking when I sometimes lost the plot. And her advice was, you know, if you leave, you know, would that advice, is it better to continue to get that advice? And I think she was absolutely right to say that. And in the end, I think as, as Patrick and Chris and many others have stayed in, I think it’s been so important that they have done.

Peter O’Toole (00:40:41):
Yeah. I, I, I think you were right to stay in, cause it’s easy to shoot from the outside, but on the inside, can you really, even if you don’t get your opinion, isn’t taken fully on board, at least scientists is about disagreeing sometimes about Haven, the other side of it, and you can at least make sure they heard that other side of it. When you got home, what would you do read a book or watch TV?

Jeremy Farrar (00:41:07):
I think it was partially again because my upbringing I’ve, I’ve, I’ve never been a TV watcher. We have a TV at home, but, but I can’t remember the last time it was turned on actually, and I know TV is separated and people will watch on mobile devices, but now I’ve never been a an avid TV listener. I do still play sports in the summer. I play a lot of cricket not as much as I’d like to, but I play quite a lot of cricket. And I do read a lot. Yeah. I read a lot and actually I write a lot rubbish, but I do, I do, I do enjoy writing. And I, and I and I do enjoy reading. But also I think all of us need, everybody has stresses in lives, everybody, whatever level we’re all working out. Um there are, there are levels of stress in our lives. I think it’s so important that we all acknowledge that we’re not, none of us are superhuman. None of us are superhuman. We all suffer to some degree from the imposter syndrome while I’m ha why on earth am I I’m here? We all have challenges in our lives and some are greater than others, but it varies, I think it’s just so important to have a space that you can go to, which is, which is your own. It could be loud. It could be quiet. It depends on you and what works for you. But, but I think we all need to some degree accept that we need to protect ourselves to some degree and find that space. Some people get it through yoga, some people like you get it through long distance running. We all get it in different ways. But I think we it’s really important. We all like knowledge the need for that space. And no when to step into it. And just sort of take time out,

Peter O’Toole (00:42:48):
So you like you said, about writing and reading books. What is your genre? What do you, what sorts of books do you read? What do you write?

Jeremy Farrar (00:42:56):
Very different things. So on the, on the reading side when on holiday. I like to read sort of easy to read things. When recently last book I read actually, I’ve just come back from a week away, which is, which is fantastic. Holidays are so important and taking holidays is so important. But I re I’ve just read the last on holiday, the last book of John Le Carre. So sort of, you know, I think he writes very well, but it’s easy to read. I did I was a huge, huge honor and it actually was great fun. You should do it. I guess edited The Today Program, I think last Christmas, Christmas before I think 20 December 2020 that’s right. And I was introduced to that, although actually a new before LF, Sharif. I don’t know if I’m I’m going to give a plug now. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:44:01):
I’m not familiar with it.

Jeremy Farrar (00:44:03):
Okay. So she, she, she’s a brilliant Turkish family very interested in uncertainty very interested in how we all deal with uncertainty. We would love, I’d love. We would love to write a book together on it because I’m fascinated by uncertainty as well. And she wrote a little book, which is not here in front of me. I can’t bring it up How to Stay Sane in an Uncertain world or something like that. But, but a very, very a thoughtful writer I think. And and she’s dealt with with her own sexuality, with Turkish, with other parents who had done ancestry living for some of the time in the UK, but being something of an outsider, just a very, very interesting sense of the times that we’re living in. I, yeah, I’m going to put it up again cause I can’t speak highly enough of, of it. And then on the writing side obviously some thoughts around science and politics and culture and the international dimension. I’m, I’m very interested at the moment in how governments cope with domestic demand, domestic pressures in an international context. I don’t think politically we’ve got a head around, how do we deal with providing vaccines for our own citizens whilst knowing actually the enlightened self thing to do is to give vaccines for the world. How do you that’s one direction and another direction. I’m not sure we’ve got our head around how to deal with that. That that’s, I find very interesting and enjoy writing about, about that. For my own benefit, I wouldn’t make it public. But yeah, I just think we all have to have that head space and acknowledge that we all need it. You know, there aren’t there aren’t superhumans, we’re all, we all have the same degree of insecurities and, and stuff. And, and I think acknowledging that is perhaps one of the most important things.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:00):
Some quick fire questions for you. You’re an early bird or night owl,

Jeremy Farrar (00:46:05):
Night Owl

Peter O’Toole (00:46:06):
Night owl. Okay. I know the answer to this. I think tea or coffee,

Jeremy Farrar (00:46:11):

Peter O’Toole (00:46:13):
Wine or beer?

Jeremy Farrar (00:46:16):

Peter O’Toole (00:46:17):
Not the same. Well maybe at the same time, even red or white wine.

Jeremy Farrar (00:46:22):

Peter O’Toole (00:46:23):
Yeah. It has to be what’s your favorite food?

Jeremy Farrar (00:46:27):

Peter O’Toole (00:46:29):
Who cooks at home then?

Jeremy Farrar (00:46:32):
Both or neither of us actually the kids more than either of us.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:37):
Okay. Well, well taught I haven’t mastered that one that’s for sure. I notice er your favorite breakfast.

Speaker 3 (00:46:46):
All Bran. There’s a legacy from my mum. My mum was evangelical about eating all bran from the mid 1960s onwards. And I’m convinced that’s why she lived to be 95.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:00):
So you’re on the All Bran for that purpose. So if you ever stop eating all brand, get worried, Mac or PC.

Jeremy Farrar (00:47:10):

Peter O’Toole (00:47:10):
Mac cricket or rugby league.

Jeremy Farrar (00:47:16):
Both actually

Peter O’Toole (00:47:18):
You got to choose one.

Jeremy Farrar (00:47:19):
Okay. Cricket,

Peter O’Toole (00:47:20):
Ah, UK or Singapore.

Jeremy Farrar (00:47:26):
That’s a really difficult one pass

Peter O’Toole (00:47:32):
Vietnam or Singapore,

Jeremy Farrar (00:47:33):

Peter O’Toole (00:47:35):
Vietnam, or UK,

Jeremy Farrar (00:47:36):
A really difficult one as well. Forcing me down. I’d probably Vietnam.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:44):
There’s a UK passport gone, but okay. Do you have any bad habits?

Jeremy Farrar (00:47:50):
Yeah, I do have a bad habits. What are they? What would timekeeping, I think I’ve got much better at it. I’d have to say. Cause I, I, I realized as you, as you do inevitably become more senior. One of the things that really [inaudible] off is when senior people are late for things, I think that’s really disrespectful. So I have really tried hard to make sure you keep, I was late this morning 10 minutes. I’m really I think it’s really disrespectful and but I historically I’ve not been good at at timekeeping. What other the bad habits now? Let me come back. Well, not, well, I’ll think I’m gonna

Peter O’Toole (00:48:36):
Chocolate or cheese,

Jeremy Farrar (00:48:39):

Peter O’Toole (00:48:40):
Ooh, what type?

Jeremy Farrar (00:48:43):
Any, goats cheese I love, I love the there’s a huge number of really great British cheeses. But I have particularly in the last 25 years or so gravitated also to a hard European cheeses Austrian French hard cheeses, but I do love cheddar. I love goats cheese. I love, I, I cannot think of a cheese that I wouldn’t like.

Peter O’Toole (00:49:10):
Okay. Knocking around at home. What is your favorite item of clothing? A bit of a random question.

Jeremy Farrar (00:49:19):
Well it’s certainly not a tie. I hate ties. I, I I’m amazed ties have remained as, as a sort of ever worn by anybody actually. I think my favorite is probably some degree of sort of at home of, of sort of sweatpants or something similar of relax. Yeah, ease just comfortable. Okay.

Peter O’Toole (00:49:46):
I just like getting those, those different bits. If you could meet anyone in the world that’s alive, would you like to meet that you haven’t yet met

Jeremy Farrar (00:49:56):
Who’s alive?

Peter O’Toole (00:50:01):
You know, what’s coming up next now?

Jeremy Farrar (00:50:03):
I think, I think, well, I have, I have actually met, but not in a one-to-one cause I think you’re getting at who would you like to go for dinner with sort of thing? I think, I, I think probably at the moment I would put the top of that list does as Angela Merkel, but okay. I think, I think she’s, she’s been a remarkable leader in a very difficult period. And I think she’s shown, you know, people will criticized she’s she’s like all of us got weaknesses and people would say, well, you know, she’s, she’s sometimes prevaricate in the rest of the thing. I, I, I just think she has been somebody that has taken difficult positions on things where she’s taken a very humane approach migration, perhaps one, a very good example at political costs. And I think that I really admire that when you take up difficult positions, but you explain it of why, even though, you know, that’s gonna come with a political cost. So I think Angela Merkel would be the one probably of the moment that I, I have been lucky enough to meet, but not on a dinner date.

Peter O’Toole (00:51:12):
And what about in the past,

Jeremy Farrar (00:51:15):
In the past? That’s a good question. That’s a good question. In the past, who would I like to have met?

Peter O’Toole (00:51:30):
We can come back to you. If someone pops into your head, we can come back. I was going to ask, when have you found the most challenging time in your career? Was that the recently or actually as a being, you know, when you were starting out in your academic career, when are, you’ve actually found most challenging?

Jeremy Farrar (00:51:45):
I think the most challenging time. I mean, obviously we’ve been through a very challenging time at Wellcome and, you know, with the, with the reforms and that’s always been very difficult, but I think you’re right, that the most challenging times are when you feel least certain. And, and you’re probably at the start. I think that is the most difficult time in anybody’s career. You know, sitting where I am now. I’m not saying it’s easier because there are challenges, but, but it’s are often many years of doing things. I think the most challenging time was during my PhD. I’d come out of clinical medicine and I found the transition to going into well back to doing basic science. And it was pretty basic science around immunology. And I, it was really challenging. I did, I found it really difficult in clinical medicine, there are challenges of course, but that you are very much part of a team. Um there is quite a lot of positive, very positive feedback often from patients, their families, your, your colleagues, your peers and everybody else. It’s pretty instantaneous feedback, you know, in the main patients get, do get better. And, and that, they’re incredibly grateful for that. And it’s very positive feedback in the PhD. It’s very isolated. It can be very isolated and I had great supervisors. I’m not criticizing that, but you know, the first year or 18 months, two years, the PhD things didn’t work. I struggled, I looked across at others colleagues who were doing their PhDs at more or less, same time. They all seem to be successful. They all seem to be producing stuff, you know, apparently with ease, of course it was not true, but, but that first couple of years, the PhD I’ve found really very, very difficult. And actually I came across a letter, I wrote to, to the head of the department of my supervisor. This would be about 18 months in saying I’ve given it a shot, but I can’t do this. I’m going to have to stop. And and thankfully myself and, and, and the people we, we talked ourselves out of this and we kept going, but it was a really difficult time.

Peter O’Toole (00:53:56):
Yeah. No-one get results that they publish in the first two years. Do they?

Jeremy Farrar (00:54:01):
I hope, I hope not. And I think the PA I wish I had great. It was a great department group to work on. In fact, I’m going out on Friday to, to recognize that the retirement of somebody that was great, David Beeson in what I did an Angela Vincent and in the PhD. But I think we under-appreciate. How, how, how challenging going through a PhD is you know, I think the mentorship and support, I think in the main including in New York has got so much better. But I think we, we under appreciate the challenges of going through a PhD.

Peter O’Toole (00:54:36):
Do you ever feel PhD should come with a distinction or not.

Jeremy Farrar (00:54:41):

Peter O’Toole (00:54:42):
No, just keep it as a PhD as a PhD.

Jeremy Farrar (00:54:45):
Yeah. Cause I, I think, I think I’d be interested in your view on this. I think through primary school, high school, university, PhD, we are putting so much pressure on people. You know, the, the, the levels of pressure to not just get a degree, but to get a two, one together first to, to, to get A level of results to, if we now introduced that into the graduate programs as well. I just think we’re going to be leaving a younger generation driven by results. And 76 is better than 75 and false, false. There’s a wonderful book on the bookshelf behind me, the tyranny of metrics. I think we’re in danger of losing the tree for the woods and thinking we can measure everything and that measure matters and that there is a difference between 76 and 75 or 55 and 54. So I’m, I wouldn’t, because I think we already put too much pressure like in,

Peter O’Toole (00:55:44):
And I, I, you know, I really liked the Dutch system. It takes a lot longer, so I don’t like the length of time necessarily takes, I think that’s maybe limiting, but I do like the fact that there’s so many chapters already published, essentially. It’s just a summary of published work. I quite like that I’d like to, you know, in physics and chemistry and lots of publications, a lot faster, probably small snippets, maybe data in biology. We tend to have to put everything together into one big publication. I wonder if that could change mentally and just start publishing results faster. Yep. That’s it. Do you have thoughts about that?

Jeremy Farrar (00:56:27):
Well, maybe, maybe actually the last couple of years we’ll have an influence on that. You know, we, we, if you think of the way we’re publishing stuff at the moment, it looks very different to 2019. And before in the biological sciences, life sciences, you know, the pre-print system, the open access, I think it’s transforming the way people publish the only, and this is a personal thing as a result of my PhD, maybe I like the Dutch system as well. And I like the fact that the, the volume very, if you like the interview at the end is it’s largely a public event. And I loved that. I was at one not recently, actually was two years, three years ago now in Amsterdam. And I really, I agree with you. The only thing I would hesitate for is it’s all driven by publication. We already have, again, pressure to publish that. If that, I think it’s a broader conversation, I worry that this is generating short-term science where we drive science into something that can lead to an almost immediate publication. And that’s, we’ve lost. We could, we’re in danger of losing what science is there to do, which is to ask big questions that might take long time. And, and the pressure to publish is so intense that I worry it’s leading to sort of vision perspectives, which are one to two and a half years in the making before the next grant, the next paper, et cetera, et cetera. So I agree with you on the Dutch system, I love the openness and the public nature of the interview at the end. But I just worry if we all go down a publication route that we will just, again, that’s a bit, the pressure

Peter O’Toole (00:58:01):
We are nearly at the hour mark. So, Sir Jeremy, which I haven’t used that phrase yet. So you’ve got your Knight Bachelor. Did that, did that make a difference to you? Did he open doors? Did it suddenly change how people perceived you? Was it a good thing? Bad thing. Nice thing.

Jeremy Farrar (00:58:22):
It’s a, of course it’s an, it’s a very nice thing. And it, it, and it would, it’s absolutely, you know, to acknowledge that and say that, you know, I, I it’s a very nice thing and it, it, it, yeah, but

Peter O’Toole (00:58:38):
I was waiting for you to say that you were honored to get it, which is obvious, but

Jeremy Farrar (00:58:42):
It was a huge honor Yes, it’s, and, and and I was lucky, lucky enough, because if this does matter I did something you shouldn’t do, but I felt it was right. And I actually have sure it was right. I knew, I knew when I was going to get it. And I also knew that my mother was dying. She, she had [Inaudible] and, and she knew she was dying, but I was able to tell her after I knew, but before it had been publicly announced, and that was very important for me. she came from a different generation and, and yeah, that was a very special moment. I,

Peter O’Toole (00:59:22):
Yeah, I guess I’m presuming then it’s to make her proud was one of your drivers and motivation in your life.

Jeremy Farrar (00:59:29):
It always is. It always is. And yeah, it was a very special moment. Something that somebody said, it’s amazing what you remember, particularly what things nice people say. This was back in, I was, I remember at high school and it, and a good friend at the time and still in touch with that individual said something which, which has remained with me. And it was very important with me. And it was about, it was about something small about becoming captain of a team or something. And it was a voted for, it was unusual in those days, but he said something which stuck with me very importantly. He said, I voted for you because I thought if you got it, you wouldn’t change. That’s very important. I think whether criticism or positive things or guest knighthoods or winning prizes, whatever it is, I think, I think remaining grounded and remaining who you were before and afterwards is really important. And that’s not to not enjoy the moment. It’s not to celebrate that with your family or whoever else that I think, I think remaining grounded is really important and not changing

Peter O’Toole (01:00:43):
That, that knighthood was in recognition of the global health. So so, it’s a UK honor, but it it’s for the international outreach. And obviously you’ve chaired co-chaired many world health organization committees. You did a lot of work with Ebola with the publications coming out on how to deal with Ebola in the outbreaks, but you were also on the German ministry of health as well for a while, or a member of the German ministry of health. How different was that?

Jeremy Farrar (01:01:14):
Yeah, really. Yeah. And it’s not about that. It’s very different. It was, it was a group, a small group, I don’t know, eight people or so I think six people from Germany and two of us internationally for two years with with a program to advise on the German government, on their future role in global affairs, global science, global, global health, it was a huge honor to do that. And a very interesting, very different approach actually very international in the sense that the advice came in from all places. And a lot of it has been taken forward in both the previous government under Merckle, but also the new government that’s coming into place now and in the new year are committed to taking that forward. And that was so that was very hugely positive experience. And the fact that you felt that that advice and recommendations were largely taken forward and, and implemented within the federal government of Germany. So that, yeah, that was a very, very special thing to do actually for a couple of years

Peter O’Toole (01:02:19):
Sitting here. And just thinking that you you’ve been on the world health organization, chairing committees, the ministry for health in Germany, Sage, obviously in the UK, your director of Wellcome Trust, you’re still publishing results. What is it with immunologists at York? I can think of Debbie Smith, Paul Kaye, Jerry Mottram. I don’t know how you get so much into a day. It’s phenomenal. How do you concentrate on so many different tasks?

Jeremy Farrar (01:02:54):
Yeah. I have a lot of downtime. I think, I think time management is really important and finding that space we talked about earlier. I think you regenerate in that space. I, do you think, what is it that leads a scientific career? I, I th I, I am still as curious about stuff today as, as a seven-year-old. I, I still, I mean, as excited by the, by by questions as I was as an undergraduate. I still love that uncertainty of not knowing the answer. And I think that is, I, I, yeah, I, but I do turn off. I, I do, you know, I do, I do particularly in the last decade. I, I really have worked very hard to make sure you turn off and I’m sure that your creativity is enhanced by that. It isn’t 24 7. It isn’t a career doesn’t need to be 24 7. In fact, it mustn’t be, we all need that external diversity of thinking coming into us by, by picking up other stuff that isn’t a natural and natural place. Yeah. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (01:04:12):
Okay. We are up to the hour mark, but a different question to end on who do you think I should get on this next

Jeremy Farrar (01:04:21):
Paul, Paul Nurse? I don’t, I don’t know if I’m always inspired by Eliza Manning-Buller. You know, she was a brilliant chair at Wellcome and obviously an amazing history, not from a scientific background, but from a very rich career as well that there some remarkable things. I Mike Ferguson I, you know, is it particularly with the title of this podcast? I mean, I think Mike has had a fantastic career made an enormous contribution to people into science who else Boris Johnson, you could

Peter O’Toole (01:05:08):
I don’t think I have a hope of getting Boris.

Jeremy Farrar (01:05:09):
Uh you could think about, I think we talked about this at the start, but I think it’s a brilliant idea. I would, I would also run a, run a series of interviewing people at different stages in their career. And then if you had the appetite for it repeated in five years’ time or 10 years’ time and just see where they went and and, and, and how that changed. I think that’s a brilliant idea of yours and that would be a fantastic contribution to a memory and to a hit sort of historical record.

Peter O’Toole (01:05:47):
Yeah. Yeah, it’d be nice. Yeah, because obviously, if we look back on yourself 20 years ago in Vietnam, you’d never dreamt any of this. And so obviously when you say opportunity drives it, doesn’t it,

Jeremy Farrar (01:06:02):
It does. And what we shouldn’t, you know, people, whatever background, you know, we acknowledged as well, the privilege, you know, of any of our, of, of our backgrounds. You know, I was, I think I’m right in saying the second of my family go to university, but that was in a different generation. My parents didn’t go to university, but then that generation didn’t necessarily go to it. You can’t say that is true of, of the generation of today. Not everybody has those opportunities as we know very, very well, but if you do are lucky, privileged enough to have opportunities. I, I do think it’s, I do think there are these folks in the road and, and on the whole, I think certainly in my life or career, I think the things that, that I’ve regretted, not doing things rather than things I have done. And I think when you’re faced with a fork in the road take the less well-traveled one.

Peter O’Toole (01:06:59):
Okay. On that note, Jeremy, thank you so much for taking your time with us today and thank you everyone for watching or listening to has been a really inspirational really, really honored that you actually you’ve taken your time today to join us. So Jeremy, thank you very much.

Jeremy Farrar (01:07:16):
Peter, it’s been a great pleasure. You’re brilliant doing this as well as the day job. So thank you very much, indeed. Thank you.

Intro/Outro (01:07:25):
Thank you for listening to The Microscopists, a Bitesizebio podcast sponsored by Zeiss microscopy to view all audio and video recordings from this series, please visit


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