Sanger Institute cancer researcher’s innovation recognised

Congratulations to Dr Mathew Garnett who has received a National Cancer Research Institute Excellence Award for his research into the use of next-generation organoid models of cancer

Dr Mathew Garnett has received one of the first Excellence Awards given by the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI). The Innovation Award highlights the work of Dr Garnett and his team in producing hundreds of patient-derived 3D organoid cultures as a community resource to accelerate cancer research.

The Garnett group at the Wellcome Sanger Institute have created hundreds of organoids – 3D clusters of cells derived from patients’ tumours that are grown in the laboratory to represent a patient’s cancer. Using these organoids, the team are investigating the genetic causes of several different types of cancer, including breast, oesophageal, colon and lung cancers.

Dr Garnett and his team are using these organoids* to investigate the susceptibility of various cancer subtypes to panels of different drugs. They aim to understand the genetic changes that make certain cancers respond to drugs and others not, and pin down genes that are essential for each cancer’s survival to serve as new drug targets.

Through the use of organoid technology, genome sequencing, gene knock-out experiments and drug testing, Dr Garnett and his team are identifying the weak spots of different cancers. As a result of this work, new guidelines for the future of precision cancer treatments will be created and shared in the form of the Cancer Dependency Map** – a detailed rulebook of precision cancer treatments to help more patients receive effective therapies.

To recognise the scientific advances made by Dr Garnett and his team, he was awarded an Innovation Award by the NCRI after being nominated by Dr Alexandra Bonner, Head of Research Resources at Breast Cancer Now.

“It is an enormous honour to receive the NCRI Innovation award on behalf of the dedicated team members involved in this research. The use of organoids has already begun to provide insights into the mechanisms underpinning the causes of cancer and how we might develop better treatments for patients.”

Dr Mathew Garnett From the Wellcome Sanger Institute

The Awards have been created to celebrate the 15th year anniversary of the NCRI Cancer Conference and are directly linked to the key strategic objectives of the partnership, which aims to accelerate progress in cancer research through collaboration.

“We are delighted to recognise and honour the achievements made by these individuals and teams who have worked effortlessly in the community to help accelerate progress in cancer research for the benefit of patients and society.”

Dr Iain Frame CEO of National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI)

The Awards will be presented on Monday 4th November at the NCRI Cancer Conference taking place in Glasgow at the Scottish Event Campus.

More information

* Data on the cancer tissue organoids, such as drug susceptibility and genomic data are available to researchers worldwide on the Cell Model Passports website and provide a powerful new tool to enable studies into cancer development and drug discovery.

** The Cancer Dependency Map at the Sanger Institute is a project with four components – drugs, models, genes and analytics – which together contribute to the production of a rulebook for the precision treatment of cancer.

Mapping the dependencies of cancers is an international effort by the Sanger Institute in the UK and the Broad Institute in the United States. Researchers aim to bridge the translational gap that exists between genomic sequencing and providing precision medicine to the many cancer patients. Genes that are critical to a cancer’s survival represent dependencies: vulnerabilities that might serve as targets for designing new therapies or repurposing existing ones. Mapping these dependencies is essential to making precision cancer medicine a reality.

Selected websites

  • About the NCRI

    The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership of cancer research funders, established in 2001. Its 17 member organisations work together to accelerate progress in cancer-related research through collaboration, to improve health and quality of life.

    NCRI works to coordinate research related to cancer, to improve the quality and relevance of research and to accelerate translation of research into clinical practice for the benefit of patients.

    NCRI Partners are: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); Bloodwise; Brain Tumour Research; Breast Cancer Now; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health and Social Care; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie; Medical Research Council (MRC); Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Public Health Agency (Research & Development Department); Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund; Prostate Cancer UK; Scottish Government Health Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus Cancer Care; The Wellcome Trust and Welsh Assembly Government (Health and Care Research Wales).

    For more information visit 

  • The Wellcome Sanger Institute

    The Wellcome Sanger Institute is a world leading genomics research centre. We undertake large-scale research that forms the foundations of knowledge in biology and medicine. We are open and collaborative; our data, results, tools and technologies are shared across the globe to advance science. Our ambition is vast – we take on projects that are not possible anywhere else. We use the power of genome sequencing to understand and harness the information in DNA. Funded by Wellcome, we have the freedom and support to push the boundaries of genomics. Our findings are used to improve health and to understand life on Earth. Find out more at or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and on our Blog.

  • About Wellcome

    Wellcome exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation.