Recent Galton Institute conferences
The 2016 Galton Institute conference, Environmental factors in gene regulation, was held on 16 November, 2016 at The Royal Society. Professor Dame Linda Partridge, FRS delivered the 100th Galton Lecture entitled Nutrition and Lifespan. A report of the conference was published in The Galton Review, Issue No.3. Winter 2016-2017.
The 2015 Galton Institute conference, Mate Choice, was on 11 November 2015 at the Royal Society. Professor Alan Bittles delivered the 2015 Galton Lecture entitled Patterns of consanguineous marriage across the world and their consequences. (Below). A report of the conference was published in the The Galton Review, Issue No. 1, Winter 2015-2016.
The 2014 Galton Institute conference, Genetics in Medicine, was on 4 November 2014 at the Royal Society. Professor Andrew Wilkie FRS delivered the 2014 Galton Lecture entitled Lionel Penrose and the paternal age effect for mutations –sixty years on. (Below). A report of the conference was published in the Winter 2014-2015 newsletter.
The 2012 Galton Institute conference, Human genetic diversity, was held on 14 November 2012 at the Royal Society, in association with the Fisher Memorial Committee. Speakers included Professor Walter Bodmer on A genetic map of the peoples of the British Isles, and Professor Hugh Montgomery on Rock, blue genes and getting high: how we cope when oxygen is scarce. A report of the conference was published in the Winter 2012 newsletter.
The 2009 Galton Institute conference, William Bateson: his Exceptions and Origin of Species Revisited, was held on Thursday 1 October 2009 at the Royal Society. A report of the conference was published in the December 2009 newsletter.
A 2-day meeting of the Medical Genetics Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, in association with the Galton Institute, Celebrating 100 years of medical genetics, was held on 22-23 May 2008.
The 2007 Galton Institute conference, What makes us human?, was a two-day symposium to celebrate the centenary of the Galton Institute and was held on 7-8 November 2007 at University College London. A report of the symposium was published in the December 2007/March2008 newsletter. The text of the lecture by Professor John Hobcraft From Eugenics to Epigenetics: Exploring the Decoupling of Human Sexual and Reproductive Behaviours is published in the March 2009 newsletter. The text of a lecture by Professor David Galton is published in the June 2009 newsletter.
The 2006 Galton Institute conference, Nature, Nurture or Neither? Genetics in the post-genome era, was held on 19 October 2006. The abridged text of the Galton lecture, Human inheritance, differences and diseases: putting genes in their place, by Professor Marcus Pembrey was published in the September 2008 newsletter.
Other recent events
Almost 60 secondary teachers from across the country attended this conference on 28 June aimed at increasing delegates’ knowledge and understanding of some fast-moving topics in genetics which are now appearing on A-level syllabuses.
The conference was chaired by Robert Johnston who began proceedings with an introduction to the aims and activities of the Galton Institute.
The first presentation was given by Professor Graeme Black from the Centre for Genomic Medicine in Manchester. He considered ‘Gene sequencing and genetic screening techniques’. He described how Sanger sequencing had led the way but now ‘next generation sequencing’ is revolutionising work in this field. However, it generates enormous amounts of data which must be handled and interpreted by bioinformaticians. He gave examples of genetic ophthalmic disorders that have been studied in this way and concluded with a consideration of how ethical issues will arise as such work becomes more widely used.
Dr Rob White from the University of Cambridge gave the second talk on ‘HOX genes and regulation of gene expression’. Having first considered the history of HOX genes in Drosophila melanogaster, he went on to look at how they code for transcription factors that bind to DNA at specific sites in almost all animals. Nowadays they are regarded as ‘micromanagers’ that regulate a large number of regulatory genes, at a variety of different levels. Some also appear to control neuronal circuitry in the CNS.
Professor White went on to address the complex issue of gene regulation, describing ‘enhancers’, ‘cohesion complexes’ which control loops in the DNA, ‘insulators’ which act as fences within the genome and regulatory domains in the genome called ‘Topologically-Associated Domains’ or TADs.
The final talk of the morning was given by Professor Bryan Turner from the University of Birmingham who discussed ‘Epigenetics: environmental and genetic factors’. He regarded epigenetics as ‘powerful’ and looked at how it allows us to interact with our environment and how it enables us to “escape the tyranny of our DNA”. He considered the nucleosome to be the beating heart of epigenetics as it is a sophisticated signalling agent, affected by the environment. He believed passionately that DNA is deterministic but is useless without epigenetic factors and wondered whether epigenetic changes were germ-line heritable. If so, perhaps Lamarck wasn’t quite so wrong after all. He concluded with a brief look at the role epigenetics may have in treating cancer using ‘Histone de-acetylase Inhibitors’.
Following lunch, Dr Andrew Wood from the University of Edinburgh spoke about the fast-moving topic of ‘Gene editing (CRISPR/Cas9): principles, current and future uses’. He began by describing the basic principles involved using engineered endonucleases to make double strand breaks in DNA. He regards it as a “universal toolkit” for reverse or forward genetics, much of the early work having been carried out on C.elegans. He considered future potential uses in somatic gene therapy, both in vivo and ex vivo and questioned how far germline editing would be allowed in the future and whether it would be both acceptable and safe.
Dr Rhona Macleod from the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine addressed the conference on ‘Genetic counselling’, what it involves, how to train as one and how it has become a part of a much larger team in the Clinical Genetics Service. To help explain her role, she considered some real cases in a large family with a history of breast cancer. She explained how she approaches issues, allowing families time to understand the problem and helping them make the right decisions for themselves.
Professor Andrew Read from the University of Manchester gave the final talk on ‘Precision medicine’. He began by stressing that this is not a new form of medicine but that modern biotechnology will allow improvement in three areas: diagnosis, prediction and treatment. He introduced the role of SNPs and GWAS as diagnostic tools and went into some detail in considering pharmacogenetics, an area of precision medicine which offers considerable hope in the treatment of certain diseases. There is huge variation between people in how drugs act, are metabolised and eventually eliminated and with a better understanding of this, it becomes easier to identify the ‘effective dose’ for a patient. He finished with a look at how cancer treatment can be individually targeted using precision medicine.
Finally, Katherine Cresswell and Steven Edwards from Nowgen described the role of the Nowgen Centre and explained what opportunities are available to young people who want to find out more about the research that is done and who may want to be involved in public engagement exercises. Robert Johnston
You can see the following presentations:
Professor Andrew Read’s presentation here.
Professor Bryan Turner’s presentation here.
Dr Rob White’s presentation here.
Dr Andrew Wood’s presentation here.
Mr Robert Johnston’s presentation here.
Our first conference for teachers was held on 30 June 2015 at Nowgen in Manchester, focussing on the new areas of genetics on the A-level specifications.
Robert Johnston chaired proceedings, opening with a brief history of the Galton Institute.
Professor Andrew Read, from Manchester, gave the first talk on Genome Organisation followed by Professor Graeme Black from Manchester who spoke about sequencing methods and applications of genomics in the morning session, while in the afternoon he discussed Gene Therapy.
Professor Heather Cordell from Newcastle gave an informative explanation of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and Genetic Drift while Dr Diego Villar Lozano from Cambridge considered Gene regulation at the genome level.
Professor Rosalind John from Cardiff addressed the conference on Epigenetics and Dr Bella Starling closed proceedings by describing Nowgen’s work in public engagement.
Delegates’ comments included:
“Quite simply the best conference I have attended whilst I have been in teaching.”
“I left feeling very motivated and refreshed. I was reminded of why I chose to pursue a career teaching A-level Biology.”
“It was the first time in years that I have been to an event to increase my subject knowledge. I really enjoyed it and will be looking out for more.”
A report of this conference was published in the Summer 2015 newsletter.
2013 marked the anniversaries of two momentous developments in genetics research: it was 10 years since the publication of the ‘gold standard’ human genome sequence, and 60 years since Watson and Crick identified the structure of DNA. To celebrate these events, the Galton Institute sponsored Nowgen – a centre of excellence in public engagement, education and professional training in biomedicine – put on a conference for young people studying A-level Biology on 9 December 2013.
Over 80 A-level students from colleges around Greater Manchester came together to celebrate genomics; they met genetic scientists, who worked with small groups in interactive sessions to explore the latest research.
The concepts introduced during the day were specially chosen to complement the A-level syllabus and to stretch students thinking about genomics and its impact. Feedback from both students and teachers was excellent, with over 97% of the students reporting that they enjoyed the day and learned a lot. The laboratory visits around the University and Central Manchester Hospitals, together with the practical activities, were highlights of the day for most students. Teachers were extremely impressed with the content and organisation of the day, with one describing it as “a fantastic and inspirational day”.
A report of this conference was published in the Spring 2014 newsletter.
100 Years of Galton Lectures
For over 100 years there has been an annual Galton lecture. The range of topics over such a period has been considerable. A full list of the lectures is available to download