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Top PI Laurence Pearl: Look beyond the short-term grant

Laurence Pearl, a biologist at the University of Sussex, talks to Catie Lichten about his career-defining grants and the benefits and pitfalls of running your own company.

Which grants have been most important in your career?

There are two that really stand out for me. Of course one of those is my first, which enabled me to set up my own lab. I received it when I was on an independent fellowship from the Medical Research Council, in a transitional phase after being a postdoc. During that fellowship, in 1987, I published what I’d like to think is a seminal paper, for which we worked out the structure of the protease enzyme in HIV. On the basis of that paper, in 1988 I was able to get a grant from the MRC’s AIDS-directed programme, which was set up earlier that decade. The grant was worth £126,000 for three years, which seemed pretty generous at the time. It covered a couple of postdocs, reagents and some equipment. It was wonderful at the time. It was independence. It was very exciting.

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