HENRY – GOVERNMENT TOXICOLOGIST
What career path and training has led you to your current job?
I graduated with a BSc in Biology from the University of London. This included the study of a wide range of topics such as microbiology, biochemistry (until recently I could draw a Krebs cycle in my sleep) and physiology. During the course I became interested in pharmacology and so completed a course in the subject. I also did another fascinating course in psycho-pharmacology run by two psychiatrists from the Institute of Psychiatry which included a visit to the Institute and to the Maudsley Hospital.
I continued my academic studies and gained my higher degree in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Strathclyde. My project supervisor was Professor William Bowman who was well known in his field and an author of a standard pharmacology text book.
My first job was as a research assistant at University College Hospital, London, in the Department of Medical Physics. I was involved in developing a non-invasive method of measuring the blood oxygen concentration in premature neonates using a transcutaneous monitor. I then moved to the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, in the Department of Surgery where I was involved in the investigation of the pathology of upper gastrointestinal tract and the effect of various drugs such as H2 antagonists.
My next post was at the Department of Health Toxicology Laboratories at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. It was here that I began my career in toxicology, being immersed in the practical aspects of investigating the toxicology of mainly food additives. Whilst there, I joined the BTS and was fortunate to be able to attend many training courses.
After a few years in the laboratory I hung up my white coat and became a “Regulatory” toxicologist at the Pesticide Safety Division at the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries (now Defra). I evaluated the risk to human health including the farm workers and the public of the use (and misuse) of pesticides.
When an opportunity occurred to join the Medicines Division at the Department of Health I jumped at the chance since I thought I could not only use my toxicological experience but also put my knowledge of pharmacology to good use.
I’m still working there, although our name has been changed twice, first to the “Medicines Control Agency” and more recently to “Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency”(MHRA)… These name changes are frequent in the public sector and is probably more relevant to the politicians than us toxicologists!