21st December 2005

Tackling the Basis (and Bases) of Disease

Funding Boost for Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Research

Major new funding for the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, announced today, will help in the battle against human disease, including three of the world's biggest killers - cancer, malaria and diabetes.

The five-year award, totalling £340m, has been made by the Wellcome Trust and comes as the Sanger Institute develops new programmes and strengthens its participation in high-level collaborations. The Institute already plays a major role in national and international partnerships, including the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium, which will define the genetic underpinning of eight common diseases.

A world leader in DNA sequencing and analysis, the Sanger Institute, based near Cambridge, is now set to take its growing genetic knowledge onto the medical stage in the search for vital disease information.

Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, the UK's biggest biomedical research charity, said: "The Sanger Institute is the leading centre for genomics and bioinformatics research and training in the UK. It delivered one-third of the Human Genome Project, the largest single contribution."

"This new funding will enable the Institute to build on its world-class scientific achievements and exploit the wealth of genome data now available to answer important questions about health and disease."

" This new funding will enable the Institute to build on its world-class scientific achievements and exploit the wealth of genome data now available to answer important questions about health and disease "

Dr Mark Walport

The Institute's work is continuing to prove immensely popular with scientists worldwide: hits on its website have risen dramatically from 300,000 a week in 2001 to 5,000,000 this autumn. The plan announced today is a bold step to bring real biomedical advance, shared widely, from the Institute's foundation of genomic research.

For example, the Institute's successful Cancer Genome Project will focus on three cancer types - breast, lung and kidney - to try to identify the majority of mutations involved in disease development. A major survey for mutations will be carried out on 1,000 other cancer samples.

Professor Allan Bradley, Director of the WTSI, said: "We are succeeding in our quest to 'bring biology to the genome,' which is what we proposed under our previous plan in 2001."

Cairns Pavilion

"We intend that our new portfolio of research, from fundamental sequencing to genetic studies with model organisms, will have lasting value. We are determined to make a difference. One of our aims is to nurture the new generation of genomic biologists who will make a significant contribution to biomedicine, not just in the UK, but ultimately around the world."

Infectious disease is a massive health problem for developing countries. New programmes at the Institute will combine research on disease-causing organisms with studies of host resistance. Examples proposed include typhoid fever and malaria, in projects that exemplify integration of research between disciplines, a key aspect of the new plan.

That integration is applied to studies to understand disease that has a genetic basis. In collaboration with researchers from the UK and around the world, the Institute will examine the genetic foundation of diabetes and obesity. It is predicted that over the next ten years the number of people with diabetes will double.

Using its unique combination of skills in computer analysis, DNA sequencing, studies of DNA variation, antibody production and analysis of gene activity in cells and model organisms, the Institute's focused approach will yield rich, clinically relevant information released rapidly to the research community.

Open access to the large-scale data generated is central to the ethos of the Institute and drives research, as shown by the demand for the Institute's unique resources.

Each week, 1,000 CDs-worth of data are used by biomedical researchers. Visits to its database of cancer mutations - COSMIC - has grown tenfold in 18 months to more than 25,000 per week. In addition to internet access, researchers also make massive use of biological resources: the Institute supplies thousands of DNA clones and cell samples each year.

The Institute's plan will provide new and valuable resources and enhance the current suite. From fundamental research to clinical studies, this unique programme will lead to new biomedical understanding, prime the development of new diagnostics and new treatments and strengthen research worldwide.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

    • Founded in 1992, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is a world leader in genomic research, the generation of DNA sequence information and its use to understand biology and medicine. New buildings were opened in October 2005 to accommodate the research of the Institute.
  2. Among the Institute's most significant recent achievements are

    • The largest contribution to the human genome sequence - almost one third (2003)
    • Major contributor to the sequence of the mouse genome (2005)
    • Genome sequence of the zebrafish model organism, Danio rerio (due 2006)
    • Sequence of more almost 50 genomes of disease-causing organisms, including those of:
      • Typhoid fever (2001)
      • Malaria (2002)
      • The 'superbug' MRSA (2004)
      • Sleeping sickness (2005)
    • Identification of genes involved in malignant melanoma (2002), leading to new clinical trials
    • Identification of genes involved in 4% of lung cancers, suggesting therapy for these patients (2004)
  3. The Institute is a partner is major programmes to accelerate biomedical research

    • Leading contributor to the HapMap Project, a $100M international effort to map variation in the human genome (2005)
    • Major partner in the Wellcome trust Case-Control Consortium, a £9M UK effort to find the genetic basis of tuberculosis, coronary heart disease, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, bipolar disorder and hypertension
    • Major partner in EUCOMM, a £13M EC Consortium to generate mutations in genes in the mouse
    • Major partner in the Bloodomics Project, a £9M EC Consortium that aims to identify genes involved in coronary artery disease
    • Major partner in the Human Epigenome Project, which aims to identify, catalogue and interpret modifications of DNA in disease
  4. Websites

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which receives the majority of its funding from the Wellcome Trust, was founded in 1992. The Institute is responsible for the completion of the sequence of approximately one-third of the human genome as well as genomes of model organisms and more than 90 pathogen genomes. In October 2006, new funding was awarded by the Wellcome Trust to exploit the wealth of genome data now available to answer important questions about health and disease.


The Wellcome Trust and Its Founder

The Wellcome Trust is the most diverse biomedical research charity in the world, spending about £450 million every year both in the UK and internationally to support and promote research that will improve the health of humans and animals. The Trust was established under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome, and is funded from a private endowment, which is managed with long-term stability and growth in mind.


Sanger Institute Contact Information:

Don Powell Press Officer
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Hinxton, Cambs, CB10 1SA, UK

Tel +44 (0)1223 496 928
Mobile +44 (0)7753 7753 97
Fax +44 (0)1223 494 919
Email press.office@sanger.ac.uk

* quick link - http://q.sanger.ac.uk/xewuk30r