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MP tours ground-breaking research

26 Ionawr 2011

Roger Williams MP in an MRC Centre labMr Williams (seated) and Dr Davies with a Robotic Liquid Handling System in the MRC Centre labs

Brecon and Radnorshire MP Roger Williams has learned about Cardiff’s cutting edge research to help patients with psychiatric illnesses.

Mr Williams visited the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics in the School of Medicine, Cardiff University as part of the MP-Scientist Pairing Scheme run by the Royal Society.

The scheme allows MPs to visit the scientist’s place of work to learn more about contemporary science, whilst the scientists visit Westminster to learn about how science may inform policy. Mr Williams has been paired with Dr William Davies, an RCUK Fellow within the Schools of Medicine and Psychology.

Dr Davies took Mr Williams on a tour of the MRC Centre laboratories in the Henry Wellcome Building. He explained that the Centre’s main aim is to recruit large numbers of patients with well-defined psychiatric illnesses, and identify genetic differences between these groups and healthy individuals. Once identified, the Centre investigates how these variations might influence gene function, and hence how they might cause the specific features of the illness. Dr Davies explained that ultimately this research might uncover new molecular mechanisms which might be valid targets for more effective therapies for these very common and disabling disorders.

Dr Davies has already visited the Houses of Parliament, where he listened to MPs and Civil Servants working with scientists to develop policy, sat in on a Science and Technology Select Committee meeting about the handling of the volcanic ash crisis, and watched several debates in the Houses of Commons and Lords. He also shadowed Mr Williams, including making a visit to the Chinese Embassy to encourage trade links between Wales and China.

Mr Williams, a member of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, said: "I was pleased once again to take part in the Royal Society MP-Scientist Pairing Scheme. This year my ‘partner’ was William Davies who works on the site shared between Cardiff University and the University Hospital of Wales. I was pleased to visit his workplace to see the research he has carried out into autism and ADHD. These conditions cause much concern for many families and a better understanding of the genetic causes will indicate more productive treatments and care. I understand William enjoyed his time in Westminster. I am committed to ensure parliament makes political decisions based on sound science. This scheme encourages the partnership between science and parliament to be more productive and fruitful."

Dr Davies said: "The Royal Society MP-Scientist Pairing Scheme has provided me with an intriguing insight into how our evolving scientific knowledge may inform government policy, and has highlighted to me the importance of ensuring that politicians are provided with clear, objective opinions from experts across a diverse range of scientific disciplines. The scheme has also allowed me to promote the innovative and important work that is currently being undertaken within Cardiff University."