Recent Galton Institute conferences
The 2019 Galton Institute conference, New Light on Old Britons was held on 30 October, 2019 at The Royal Society. Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe delivered the 103rd Galton Lecture entitled The ‘Celts’ in Britain – a romantic fiction? A report of the conference will be published in the next Galton Review.
The Galton Institute conference Genome Editing was held on 31 October, 2018 at The Royal Society. This year the 102nd Galton Lecture was in two parts. Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, FRS delivered his Galton Lecture entitled Genome editing to study regulation and regulation of genome editing.
There was then a video presentation from Professor Jennifer Doudna, FRS Genome Editing – history and future.
A report of the conference will be published in the next Galton Review.
This year we have produced podcasts of interviews with the speakers which you can find here.
The 2017 Galton Institute conference, Surveying Galton\’s Legacy was held on 15 November, 2017 at The Royal Society. Professor Bartha Knoppers delivered the 101st Galton Lecture entitled Eugenics: The (Un)Ethical Trump Card? A report of the conference will be published in the next Galton Review.
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.
See also: the Galton Institute Podcasts
Other recent events
Recent Advances in Genetics: a Third Teachers\’ Conference
Once again, this was a well-attended event attracting almost 60 teachers, mainly from the North of England. The event was chaired by Robert Johnston and also present was the President of The Galton Institute, Professor Veronica van Heyningen.
Robert Johnston opened proceedings with a brief account of the aims and activities of the Galton Institute and a look a look at its history and that of Francis Galton.
The first speaker was Professor Andrew Read (University of Manchester), the treasurer of the Galton Institute. He spoke at length on Epigenetics, beginning with the obvious example of X inactivation. He went on to consider DNA methylation, histone modification and chromatin conformation. He believes that “if you want to understand how cells function, you must understand gene regulation and that requires an understanding of epigenetics”.
Dr Emma Woodward (Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust) was next to speak on Precision Genomics for Cancer. She began by considering the spectrum of variants that can occur in a population and then concentrated on those that increase risk for breast cancer. The best known and studied are the BRCA1/2 genes which are both relatively common and, if present, cause a significant increase in risk. It is now possible to calculate a Polygenic Risk Score, enabling clinicians to decide which might be the best drugs to administer. There has been significant success with PARP inhibitors and such precision medicine is clearly the future for treatment of such cancers.
The last talk before lunch was given by Dr George Burghel (Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust) who gave a lively and animated account of the 100,000 Genomes Project. He introduced the subject by describing the Human Genome Project and thought that it “changed everything” and opened the way for genomics. The key has been the development of 2nd and 3rd generation sequencing which have revolutionised the speed of such work and dramatically reduced the cost. Such large-scale studies have begun to dramatically improve diagnosis and prediction of rare diseases since the variants linked to such conditions have been identified. However there are still plenty of challenging issues to address including counselling and ethical considerations.
After lunch Dr David Thybert (Earlham Institute, University of East Anglia) gave his thoughts on Genomic Approaches to Studying Evolution. He explained how Neutral Evolution and Natural Selection can both fix alleles in a population and showed how it is possible to compare genomes between and within species to identify which processes are taking place. He described his work on rodents such as the Deer Mouse and the Spring Mouse and said that studying such species is like using evolution as a “natural laboratory”. It also enables researchers to discover the molecular mechanisms behind the functioning of the genome.
Dr Nuria Martinez-Cibrian (Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust) spoke next on T-cell Therapy and Cancer. She concentrated her enthusiastic and well-illustrated lecture on the use of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells (CAR-T cells) to treat aggressive cancers. She described how the patient’s own T-cells are removed, infected with retrovirus carrying the anti-CD19 gene, expanded in the laboratory then returned to the patient, all within 35 days. Success has been significant but there have also been concerns over toxicity effects which are being addressed. The two most common are Cytokine Release Syndrome and Neurotoxicity. Both can be serious but management of them is improving all the time.
The final speaker was Professor Simon Hubbard (University of Manchester) whose talk was entitled What is bioinformatics and how do you become a bioinformatician? He described how the science of Bioinformatics has evolved since the 1980s and had been driven by work in protein structure and DNA sequencing. Nowadays, there is so much of this work being done that “we’re drowning in data” and there is a desperate need for more bioinformaticians. Much of the work involves assembling the long chains produced so quickly by modern third generation DNA sequencing so the exons, genes, promoters etc. can be identified. Professor Hubbard described the somewhat unconventional route his career has followed and stressed that a good bioinformatician isn’t by necessity an outstanding mathematician but mustn’t be scared of statistics and should be comfortable handling data.
This was an intense day for the teachers who attended but feedback from them included: “an excellent and inspiring day”, “has helped me develop my knowledge and understanding” and “would recommend ALL Biology teachers to attend. I can’t wait for the next one!”
You can see the following presentations:
Dr George Burghel\’s presentation here.
Dr Nuria Martinez-Cibrian\’s presentation here.
Professor Andrew Read’s presentation here.
A meeting to celebrate the centennial of R.A. Fisher’s landmark paper: 100 years of quantitative genetics theory and its applications: celebrating the centenary of Fisher 1918 was held in Edinburgh on 9 October, 2018. The Galton Institute co-sponsored this meeting and the lectures are available to view:
Nick Barton – The infinitesimal model
Sharon Browning – Identity by Descent and the Correlation Between Distant Relatives
Ed Buckler – How to get to plant breeding 4.0, given that Fisher was right?
Heather Cordell – Regional IBD analysis (RIA): linkage analysis in extended pedigrees using genome-wide SNP data
Josselin Clo – How does selfing affect the genetic variance of quantitative traits? An updated meta-analysis on empirical results in angiosperm species
Daniel Crouch – The genetics of the human face
Michael Goddard – The Fisher Memorial Lecture – Genetic architecture of complex traits. Quantitative genetics 100 years after Fisher (1918)
Jarrod Hadfield – Hamilton’s rule in multiple dimensions
Chandana Basu Mallick – Making sense of GWAS: understanding the genetic basis of human hair shape using mouse models
Richard Mott – Structural variants as quantitative traits
Josephine Pemberton – Quantitative genetics of free-living populations: successes and challenges
Himani Sachdeva – Introgression under the infinitesimal model with linkage
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
Galton Lectures on video
2018: Professor Robin Lovell-Badge - Genome editing to study regulation and regulation of genome editing.
2017: Professor Bartha Knoppers - Eugenics: The (Un)Ethical Trump Card?
2016: Professor Dame Linda Partridge, FRS - Nutrition and Lifespan
2015: Professor Alan Bittles - Patterns of consanguineous marriage across the world
2014: Professor Andrew Wilkie, FRS - Lionel Penrose and the paternal age effect for mutations - sixty years on