Scintillating Sanger!

Hedingham School A level Biology students recently had the privilege of visiting the world renowned Sanger Institute at Hinxton near Cambridge.  The Institute is a world leader in genome research and aims to deliver new insights into human and pathogen biology that will change the course of biology and medicine.  During their visit the students had a fascinating tour of the state of the art facilities and an inspirational talk on cutting edge science relating to cancer treatments.  The Sanger Institute played a huge role in the Human Genome Project, an international collaboration to sequence the whole human genome (the DNA in a cell).  They are now involved in the 100K Genome Project which aims to track 100,000 patients over 5 years comparing their genomes with their NHS records to better understand health risks.

The 30 students are all in their first year of studying Biology, but have a keen interest in extending their knowledge of science.  The tour allowed them to see the work place of over 1000 people involved in learning more about the scientific world.  Just over 20 years ago the site only had 7 people working there but this has grown into one of the foremost scientific research institutes in the world.  They were also able to see the world’s largest genome sequencing computers.

Dr Patrick Tarpey, Senior Research Scientist with the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, gave an inspirational talk about the work he is currently involved in.   Dr Tarpey is the lead scientist for the International Cancer Genome Consortium project investigating bone cancers.  He also contributes to on-going genomic investigations of renal, breast and colorectal (bowel) cancers.  Dr Tarpey explained how they have identified individual ‘signature mutations’ in the genome for different types of cancer.  This will hopefully enable them to identify cancers that people have much earlier, which would mean treatment could start earlier and the patients would have a greater chance of survival.

Charlotte Connelly (seen holding the DNA model in the photo) commented ‘It was an amazing trip and I wasn’t expecting the Sanger Institute to be so huge!  Dr Tarpey gave us such an intriguing insight into how cancers develop and the vast assortment of treatments available for different types of cancer.’