Behind the Microscope – David Thorne

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Behind the Microscope – David Thorne
Behind the Microscope – David Thorne
David Thorne
Senior Scientist

14 April 2021

Science and innovation are at the heart of everything we do at BAT. We know that scientific engagement is critical if regulators and society at large are to access and understand the latest data and thinking in this rapidly evolving area. By continuing to produce world-class science we can help inform the conversation around both Tobacco Harm Reduction and our New Category Products, and, by communicating our science in a clear and informative way, we will support our ongoing efforts to build A Better TomorrowTM.

In the third part of our Behind the Microscope series we speak to Senior Scientist, David Thorne, to find out more about his career and passion for science. A member of the Pre-clinical Assessment team at BAT, David is one of the invited speakers at the Online Flavours Workshop which is part of this year’s ENDS Europe conference  (April 14 & 20-21).

An introduction to scientific research

Like many of BAT’s 1,500 R&D specialists, David traces his love of science back to childhood. “I liked science all the way through from my GCSEs to my A-levels. It was the one thing that really excited me and, after getting a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Biomedical Sciences, I was looking for a short-term position that would help me pay the bills while I looked for a PhD. That’s when I found a summer role in BAT’s Chemistry team and it proved to be a really serendipitous moment.”

Soon after starting at BAT, David was working at the global R&D hub in Southampton when he saw something that piqued his interest. “I spotted a tray with the word Biology written on it. At that time, I had no idea there were biologists at BAT, so I had to find out more. I went to meet the team and was completely hooked from that moment on. Then, when an opportunity came up, I was lucky enough to get it, so, while I’d only planned to be at BAT for three months at most, I’m still here nearly 17 years later. This is because the company is so engaging and provides its staff with so many opportunities. Science is at its core and, if you want to diversify, if you want to get additional experience or change your career path, there are so many routes for you. If you have a willingness to learn, there is no limit to where you can go with BAT.”

BAT’s Harm Reduction programme

Much of David’s early work at BAT was focused on reducing the toxicity of a burning cigarette, but everything changed when BAT started work on its first vapour product in 2013. “We suddenly had a potential Harm Reduction product that no longer involved the complications of burning tobacco. The vapour products produced significantly fewer toxicants when compared to cigarettes and consumers seemed to find them satisfying. Additionally, we developed Tobacco Heating Products (THPs) and Modern Oral Products (MOPs) that, based on the weight of evidence, offer consumers who make the complete switch an even greater choice of reduced risk products in comparison to cigarettes. It is acknowledged that these products are not risk free and are addictive. But since we started working on these New Category products, the shift the company has gone through, and the people within it, has been incredible.”

At ENDS Europe, David will be giving a talk entitled “The toxicity assessment of flavours” (April 14). During his presentation, he will discuss a range of topics including the importance of stewardship safety assessments to maintain the quality of all e-liquid ingredients and flavourings. “Studies have shown that cigarette smokers who switch to a vapour product, often initially prefer a tobacco flavour e-liquid, but then choose to vape other flavoured e-liquids1. Flavours are important to make vapour products a satisfying and enjoyable smoking alternative for cigarette smokers. This means flavours are critical to the success of our Harm Reduction strategy.”

Industry collaboration and scientific engagement

For much of his time at BAT, David has been working with CORESTA (Cooperation Centre for Scientific Research Relative to Tobacco), an association whose purpose is to promote international cooperation in scientific research related to tobacco. “I’ve been involved in CORESTA for about 10 years, initially focusing on standardising approaches for cigarette smoke testing, but it now includes work on harmonising research protocols for vapour products, THPs and MOPs. It’s critical to have a standardised testing protocol in place for these products that is recognised by regulators and governments and allows the products to be tested in a robust and consistent manner across the market.”

As well as being part of industry collaborations, David has also put a significant amount of effort into scientific engagement. “Since about 2010, I’ve personally helped to deliver more than 40 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals and have taken part in a number of scientific conferences. If we want to get our Tobacco Harm Reduction message out to regulators and society at large, we need to be publishing our work to showcase BAT’s industry-leading research. We need to allow interested stakeholders to see that we’re a credible, responsible and robust company delivering world-class science and I’m really proud to have played my part in getting the science of BAT’s research programme out to the external community. Over a number of years, we have built up a substantial body of evidence that supports our New Category products and this work is a key driver in helping us deliver our purpose of building A Better TomorrowTM.”

An innovative and forward-thinking company

David has been with BAT through a period of unprecedented change for the company and the industry, and he continues to be impressed with the business’ agility. “I’m so proud to work at such an innovative and forward-thinking company, one that is constantly challenging the status quo. We’re not just followers, we’re thought leaders, and that’s really inspiring. It gives me an immense sense of pride in terms of what BAT is trying to achieve across all of our categories. That’s why we should really hold our heads up high, because when we look at our competitors, they may be in one or two categories, but there isn’t anyone like BAT who’s invested time, energy and resources across all the categories, to really give the consumer a portfolio of products that we believe are less risky compared to cigarette smoking2.”


1. Farsalinos, K.E.; Romagna, G.; Tsiapras, D.; Kyrzopoulos, S.; Spyrou, A.; Voudris, V. Impact of Flavour Variability on Electronic Cigarette Use Experience: An Internet Survey. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10, 7272-7282.

2. Based on the weight of evidence and assuming a complete switch from cigarette smoking. These products are not risk free and are addictive



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