Martin O. Pollard | Senior Software Developer

Pollard, Martin O.

Martin's work is focused on the creation of tools and pipelines for the processing of human data at the Sanger Institute and elsewhere. His PhD research project is centred on exploring genomic variation within Africa with a special interest in the HLA.

I am currently engaged in developing computational techniques for characterising the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) in African populations with the aim of developing a scalable technique for thousands of samples. This complements my work in Human Genetics Informatics, where I contribute to the Samtools software suite and direct secondary analysis pipelines for the Human Genetics Faculty.

The HLA region is scientifically important because of the role the genes in this area of the genome play in immune response. Association studies have linked the HLA to sizeable effects on the development and progression of many communicable and non-communicable diseases. Our research to develop HLA population reference materials for African populations will increase our power to detect and finemap novel HLA variation benefiting not only our own studies but also those of other researchers.

The African continent is one of the most genetically diverse places on Earth, with many populations harbouring variation never before observed. This variation gives us the ability to study the regions of the genome, inaccessible in other populations and provides insights into the causes of the many diseases affecting this continent. Additionally African genome variation research not only supports disease research but also gives us valuable insights into the history of mankind, allowing us to study the great human migrations of the past.


  • Deep Roots for Aboriginal Australian Y Chromosomes.

    Bergström A, Nagle N, Chen Y, McCarthy S, Pollard MO et al.

    Current biology : CB 2016;26;6;809-13

  • The African Genome Variation Project shapes medical genetics in Africa.

    Gurdasani D, Carstensen T, Tekola-Ayele F, Pagani L, Tachmazidou I et al.

    Nature 2015;517;7534;327-32

Pollard, Martin O.