Wellcome Sanger Institute joins UK research sector in support of sex and gender policies in research

Sanger’s Policy Lead, Hayley Clissold, shares a statement of intent signaling the Institute’s support for the introduction of dedicated sex and gender policies for biomedical, health and care research in the UK.

The Wellcome Sanger Institute, today (11 December), joins organisations across the UK medical research sector to support this statement, which was produced by The George Institute for Global Health’s Medical Science Sex and Gender Equity (MESSAGE) project. The Institute supports a first-of-its-kind sex and gender policy for biomedical, health and care research in the UK.

Sex and gender play fundamental roles in individual and population health. Sex and gender influence the medical conditions people develop, the symptoms they experience, the treatments and quality of care they receive, their disease progression and their overall outcomes. Studying and understanding sex and gender differences and similarities is essential for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of medicines and care, to improve the health of all people in the UK.

High-quality, reproducible and inclusive biomedical, health and care research requires consideration of sex and gender at every stage, from study design and recruitment to data analysis and transparent reporting of results. Unlike other high-income countries – notably Canada, the United States and European nations under Horizon Europe – the UK currently has no standard, unified guidance for researchers about how adequately to consider sex dimensions in cell and animal studies, and sex and gender dimensions in human studies.

The UK’s MESSAGE initiative has co-designed a sex and gender policy, which will be available from 2024. Culture change in this space will ensure the UK cements its position as a world leader in rigorous, sustainable science and provides the most effective evidence to improve outcomes for patients and society, which the Sanger Institute strongly supports.

The Institute is committed to providing the research community with the guidance, skills and tools to ensure that future research meets the needs of all people, no matter their sex or gender. At the Sanger Institute, the policy team is developing an organisational strategy on representative research to ensure that its research seeks to benefit everyone, including those of underrepresented groups.