Professor Rachel McKendry
Well-versed in working with industry and advising government and policy makers, Rachel McKendry realised early on in her career that what went on outside the lab was just as important as the medical research that went on inside of it.
Committed to an interdisciplinary approach, Rachel is the director of i-sense, a five-year research programme led by University of College London that aims to engineer a new generation of early-warning sensing systems to identify major disease outbreaks. She says: “[At i-sense] we are pioneering the development of a new generation of early-warning systems to identify outbreaks of potentially deadly diseases such as pandemic influenza, HIV, MRSA and Ebola much earlier than ever before.”
The nature of Rachel’s work means collaboration is key and i-sense has grown into a national network of excellence involving almost 100 researchers working at institutions including the NHS, Google and the Africa Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Much of this work focuses on systems that would alert populations to outbreaks of emerging diseases like Zika.
Rachel is also dedicated to improving gender diversity in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Mathematics) and recently led a national app competition, the Rosalind Franklin Appathon, to inspire the next generation of women as leaders in STEMM.
Rachel hopes that by connecting the worlds of research, business, technology, healthcare and policy, we can beat diseases that will otherwise continue to take millions of lives every year. Her message is unambiguous: “Our knowledge must evolve faster than the pathogens.”