Tackling the Basis (and Bases) of Disease

Funding Boost for Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Research

Tackling the Basis (and Bases) of Disease

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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.

"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."

Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, the UK's biggest biomedical research charity

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.

"We are succeeding in our quest to 'bring biology to the genome,' which is what we proposed under our previous plan in 2001."

"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."

Professor Allan Bradley, Director of the Welleomce Trust Sanger Institute ​

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
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