Catching up with AIMES Alumni Lewis Fry

Hello to everyone in the North Harbour Club.

I’m doing well, and actually here in New Zealand right now. My partner Amelia and I saw the lockdown coming in the UK, and after our respective labs and workplaces were shutdown, we decided it would be best to see it out in NZ. So we have been working remotely from here. Quite disruptive, as it is for everyone, but we are dealing with it fine. Unfortunately it means that it is likely the PhD timeline will be extended significantly as it has occurred at a fairly critical phase of my work.

As researchers in Oxford leads the charge in creating a vaccine for COVID-19, those of us not involved have, like everyone, been in isolation and frustratingly unable to do anything. As tempting as it is for me as a researcher on eye diseases to try some cross-disciplinary work to help with the response, thankfully there are more than enough skilled public health physicians, immunologists and vaccinologists and the like to contribute.

Unfortunately my medical registration doesn’t permit me to practice in the UK, so I escaped home to New Zealand as the outbreak closed our Oxford labs. Back here I have been finishing up as much desk based work as I can, writing my thesis, and hoping to get back to the lab bench when safe to do so. The last six months have been incredibly busy. I have had two papers published, including one in a top journal in my field, JAMA ophthalmology. I attended a few forums hosted by the WHO committee developing a global framework for the regulation of gene editing in London.

My AIMES funding helped me to travel to New York where I presented my work at a Genome Editing conference, and I have since submitted that work for publication based on feedback I received there. It also allowed me to set up some very interesting collaborations with some leading gene editing labs in Boston and California. As I write this, I should be back in Boston presenting new work at the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy meeting, and meeting with my collaborators. As with everything else, this has of course been cancelled.

There has been plenty of time for a bit of fun too - dressing up in a white tie dinner suit once a year for a fancy college dinner does make me look a little like a penguin, but is a unique Oxford highlight. Back in New Zealand however, I have really enjoyed the COVID-free time I’ve had to spend with my parents and the great beaches of the Shore now we are allowed to visit in level 3. I’m itching to get back to the lab and the UK summer once this passes - lots of work to do!

All the best 



Lewis was the recipient of the AIMES Education Award (sponsored by Kristin School) and the AIMES Supreme Award in 2017.