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Creation of the first confocal microscope


Technology transfer: Grants and awards
Aaron Klug Scientist
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During this period, there was also... I discovered that although Greg Winter was very interested in all this, and when Greg Winter was set up... when Cambridge Antibody was set up, he became Research Director, part-time Research Director, so he earned some extra money, but they also wanted people to push it. Michael Neuberger, who I heard can make antibodies, showed no interest in developing them or exploiting them. In fact, he said to one of the Ministers in the Government, I've done my bit, let the others do it. Now, it doesn't work like that. You can't develop anything unless you have a champion of the science and technology. You have to have that. And Greg was a marvellous champion. He wouldn't go to America, but he did talk about it. So the... so it was... there was no... the awards to inventors... there was an award to inventors based upon the Government policy and Ken Holmes may remember with Bill Longley getting an ex gratia grant of a few hundred pounds, 250 was it?

[Q] 250 pounds.

250 pounds. That was called an ex gratia payment, so if something had been invented in the public sector, you would... and had brought in money to the Government or to the country, could be to the country, you could apply for an ex gratia grant, and a prime example of this were the people invented the cavity magnetron which is what powered RADAR. Now that helped win the war. The inventors of the cavity magnetron after the war, Randall and Boot, got I think something under £3,000 which could buy a house at the time, but these were the most... the greatest invention of its time, the invention of RADAR and they got... and that was the system of awards.

So also, I argued for having awards to inventors, and eventually by now this time the Head Office at MRC was waking up to this, that we were doing these things and so over the year or two, we created a system of awards to inventors which... a complicated system, it's been revised over the years, but roughly speaking, if you get an invention which is in the... not bringing in great amounts of money, one third goes to the Lab, one third to the inventors and one third to the MRC, because they supplied the money. Now the inventors are not necessarily the people whose names appear on the patent, but everybody who has helped get it, and the 'inventors' – inverted commas – I as Director decide on the inventors, so when it came to Greg's invention, there's at least six people on it, not just Greg himself and Peter Jones and so on, all who'd helped in one way developing the technology, and the other thing about the... we were committed to do was that in Cambridge Antibody Technology we were, César and I and Greg, became... I become a Director of Cambridge Antibody for which I got £1,000 a year, which was novel, César became a Consultant and he got £1,000 a year... we were equal because he invented... and Greg got something also similar. Later the money was increased, but it was the first time we could receive, and I had needed the permission of MRC, so there was now a... so this was the first that this had ever been done, which broke the old Cambridge... you know, the old academic adage which you find in Cornford's book... in academia nothing should ever be done for the first time. Roughly, this is what they basically... was in the culture at the time. So that was technology transfer.

Born in Lithuania, Aaron Klug (1926-2018) was a British chemist and biophysicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for developments in electron microscopy and his work on complexes of nucleic acids and proteins. He studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England, completing his doctorate in 1953 at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1981, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His long and influential career led to a knighthood in 1988. He was also elected President of the Royal Society, and served there from 1995-2000.

Listeners: Ken Holmes John Finch

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick. He obtained his BA at St Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Birkbeck College, London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin and Aaron Klug. After a post-doc at Childrens' Hospital, Boston, where he started to work on muscle structure, he joined to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he stayed for six years. He worked with Aaron Klug on virus structure and with Hugh Huxley on muscle. He then moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules including the structure of the muscle protein actin and the actin filament. Recently he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. He also initiated the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1981 and is a member of a number of scientific academies.

John Finch is a retired member of staff of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. He began research as a PhD student of Rosalind Franklin's at Birkbeck College, London in 1955 studying the structure of small viruses by x-ray diffraction. He came to Cambridge as part of Aaron Klug's team in 1962 and has continued with the structural study of viruses and other nucleoproteins such as chromatin, using both x-rays and electron microscopy.

Tags: Cambridge Antibody Technology, Celltech, MRC, Cesar Milstein, Greg Winter, Michael Neuberger, Ken Holmes

Duration: 4 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008