UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences


Felix Breyer

Spirit of SLMS Winner (Scientific Excellence & Leadership)

Felix is a German PhD student in Biochemistry carrying out his research at the Francis Crick Institute.

Tell us a bit about your winning project.

Besides doing my PhD I have, for the past two years, been President of GapSummit 2018, the world's first global and intergenerational leadership summit in biotechnology.

The GapSummit 2018, which was held at the University of Cambridge in April 2018, connected over sixty current world leaders in the bio-economy with the next generation of biotech leaders. The one hundred carefully selected young delegates joined us from over forty countries from across the globe.

During the three-day summit, leaders of tomorrow discussed future challenges in the biotech industry with leaders of today. The GapSummit comprised keynote presentations, panel discussions and interactive interviews, addressing seven pressing gaps in biotechnology: R&D Productivity, Funding, Digital Health & Personalised Medicine, Sustainability, Drug Affordability, Road from Academia to Industry and Entrepreneurship.

Our vision is to engage current leaders in exciting discussions with the next generation of biotech leaders to develop ideas and solutions. We think that the dialogue between different generations is critical to address the global challenges we face today. As part of the GapSummit, we also hosted a business plan competition encouraging the one hundred delegates to develop innovative solutions to critical ‘Gaps’ in their local bio-economies. This competition has given numerous delegates the opportunity to develop their idea into an impactful start-up, even beyond the GapSummit conference.

What have been some of the great milestones and/or achievements for you during your time at UCL?

Meeting a lot of exciting fellow students at UCL from across the world has certainly been a great experience so far.

Personally, being awarded a prestigious Boehringer Ingelheim PhD Fellowship from Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds and thus being part of this fellowship community has been and will remain invaluable.

Lastly, as already mentioned, co-organising the GapSummit has been a truly exciting and rewarding journey during which I have met so many amazing and inspiring people.

What role do you think public engagement of science plays in wider society?

I think that public engagement is a prerequisite for scientific discoveries to positively impact society. Instead of relying on media to cover scientific breakthroughs, the scientific community has an obligation and responsibility to inform the public about research.

While public engagement can on one hand clarify ethical implications related to particular research areas, including CRISPR gene editing technologies or stem cell research, communication with the public can also prevent misinterpretation or overstatements of scientific findings among the general public.

As a PhD student at the Francis Crick Institute, it is impressive to experience the fantastic efforts that are put into public engagement here. Public engagement initiatives include school projects, exhibitions, panel discussions covering selected research topics and Q&A evenings with scientists. I think that it is important to engage, in a highly targeted manner, with different groups of the general public to convey science effectively.

Top 3 places/things to do in London?

  •  A run through Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park
  • Saturday lunch at Borough Market
  • Friday after work drinks at Granary Square by Regent’s Canal

What would surprise people about you?

After living in the UK for more than eight years, I no longer reserve a spot with a bath towel at 6am when on holiday – perhaps a surprise since I am from Germany originally.