The future

The Institute aims to sequence more than 1000 individual genomes by 2011.

The Institute aims to sequence more than 1000 individual genomes by 2011. [Genome Research Limited]


The Sanger Institute has built on the skills that established its reputation as a world-leading research institute to develop new programmes in postgenomic biology - understanding the messages in genes. Advances in technology, combined with the expertise of our research staff and the scale of our research, mean that we are in a position to reach ambitious goals in the study of human disease in global populations.

Embracing a postgenomic era

The Sanger Institute will examine how genomes are implicated in the biology of disease in greater detail, with greater precision and at faster rate than previously thought possible. Genomes are rapidly becoming a part of the essential fabric of biology, rather than an expensive resource.

Our target is to understand the function of genes on a genome-wide scale. The intellectual commitment and drive of our researchers, combined with developments in technology, will allow us to make a contribution to the understanding of how genes work that is as significant as our contribution to the Human Genome Project.

This contribution will be founded in efforts to tackle the basis of common genetic and infectious disease and to build resources and tools that will help others to tackle disease. Our dual role, as researcher and resource provider, has served biology well and we believe it will become more valuable in the future.

In the next two years, we will sequence more than 1000 human genomes. By 2012, we will make stem cells in more than 10,000 genes.

Human genetics

Our research in Human Genetics will harness the power of our improving sequencing and genotyping infrastructure in order to gain a better understanding of the diversity of the human species and how this diversity influences our health and disease. By 2011, the Institute will have sequenced more than 1000 human genomes. As part of the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium and other similar large-scale consortia, we will continue to discover important genetic variants on the scale that is required to give insight into the genetics of common disease.

Colon cancer cells.

Colon cancer cells. Cultured colon cancer cells showing the nuclei stained with DAPI in blue, the actin cytoskeleton in red and plectin (isoform 1k) in green. Plectin interacts with cytoskeletal actin, affecting its behaviour. This subtype of plectin promotes the migration of cells and may affect metastasis. [Lorna McInroy, Wellcome Images]

By 2013, the International Cancer Genome Consortium will have produced comprehensive catalogues of mutations in more than 50 different tumour types. This work, in which we play a leading role, will lay the foundation for clinical research to produce treatments that could help to reduce the global cancer burden.

Building on new technologies, we will help to develop a rapidly growing understanding of diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Our research outputs and resources, such as the DECIPHER database, will move into clinical practice as our biological understanding becomes clinically essential.

Infectious disease

Our capacity to analyse genomes means that we can examine the diversity of pathogens, both within and between species, on a scale unmatched within Europe. Our future research will lead to new understanding of infectious disease and its development and spread: using new technologies we can map individual organisms and the development of disease in an individual or among a population with exquisite accuracy. Embracing these technologies, our researchers will complete a staggering 10,000 pathogen sequences by 2011.

Hosptial ward.

Our research outputs and resources will move into clinical practice as our biological understanding becomes clinically essential. [Wellcome Library, London]

We will move rapidly to examining the interactions between pathogen and host - a vital meeting point that influences the genetics of both organisms. Our research in malaria will strengthen understanding of genetics of host-pathogen interactions. Our programmes will help to build capacity among researchers in the UK and in front-line countries facing the challenge of infectious disease. Our research into malaria shares the Global Malaria Action Plan's morbidity reduction targets for 2010 and 2015.

Our research in pathogens will also build on the MRSA and C. difficile sequences in order to help health authorities make rational and considered plans for dealing with healthcare-associated infections.

Model organisms

Working with our collaborators, we will deliver, over the next few years, resources that will transform research using model organisms.

Mice are used as a model organism.

A researcher wearing purple latex gloves, handling a mouse. Mice are used as a model organism by geneticists investigating their theories on inheritance and gene function. [Wellcome Library, London]

These remarkable resources notwithstanding, it is our research programmes that hold increasing promise.

Our research in the mouse will give a biological understanding of the genes implicated in cancer found through other programmes, such as the International Cancer Genome Consortium. Using mouse models, we will identify and unlock the networks of genes that drive cancer.

We will develop systems to accelerate stem cell research by allowing better manipulation of cell lines and by enhancing the production of embryonic stem (ES) cells.

The resources will support new research in developmental biology, hearing and cognition.


Data Centre.

We share the facilities with the EBI, our neighbours on the Genome Campus. The total data storage capacity is 4 petabytes. [Genome Research Limited]

The scale of the Institute's research is set to grow more rapidly than in the past. As the research in our laboratories asks questions of vast suites of data and enormous analyses, so our informatics research must develop new answers to add value to our data sets.

Our bioinformatics teams have the vision to capture new data and benefit from close contact with the lab researchers at the Institute to see immediately new challenges and new opportunities.

Our teams will seek to extract much richer information from the new larger datasets, information about networks as well as pathways, about families as well as single genes, about holistic function as well as isolated events.

Bioinformatics will help researchers to examine and to model genetic events: through novel data storage solutions, data access solutions, genome solutions and genetic analysis solutions, bioinformatics will be a driver for our research.

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