Dr Sarah L Spain | Operations Manager - Open Targets

Spain, Sarah L

Sarah is an Operations Manager for Open Targets, an innovative, public-private partnership that uses human genetics and genomics data for systematic drug target identification and prioritisation. She originally joined the Sanger Institute as a post-doctoral statistical geneticist working on the genetics of complex diseases with a focus on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). In particular, utilising fine-mappng data to infer genes that are potential drug targets.

I have a molecular biology background and moved from the laboratory bench into statistical genetics during my PhD, which focused on the genetic analysis of the Colorectal Cancer genome-wide association study (GWAS). Since then, I have developed my analytical skills through two post-doctoral positions at King's College London. I have worked with GWAS, Immunochip finemapping and exome chip genotype data for a variety of international collaborative projects in complex diseases such as psoriasis, cognitive ability and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

My scientific interests are focused on the genetic differences between individuals that confer an increased susceptibility to common diseases. In my research, as part of Open Targets, I utilised publically available and in-house tools to analyse large scale genetic data with the aim to identify target genes that may have therapeutic potential for diseases, such as IBD. More recently, I have moved into a research administrator role to facilitate the smooth running of Open Targets research projects.


  • Strategies for fine-mapping complex traits.

    Spain SL and Barrett JC

    Human molecular genetics 2015;24;R1;R111-9

  • A genome-wide analysis of putative functional and exonic variation associated with extremely high intelligence.

    Spain SL, Pedroso I, Kadeva N, Miller MB, Iacono WG et al.

    Molecular psychiatry 2016;21;8;1145-51

  • Enhanced meta-analysis and replication studies identify five new psoriasis susceptibility loci.

    Tsoi LC, Spain SL, Ellinghaus E, Stuart PE, Capon F et al.

    Nature communications 2015;6;7001

  • Identification of 15 new psoriasis susceptibility loci highlights the role of innate immunity.

    Tsoi LC, Spain SL, Knight J, Ellinghaus E, Stuart PE et al.

    Nature genetics 2012;44;12;1341-8

  • Refinement of the associations between risk of colorectal cancer and polymorphisms on chromosomes 1q41 and 12q13.13.

    Spain SL, Carvajal-Carmona LG, Howarth KM, Jones AM, Su Z et al.

    Human molecular genetics 2012;21;4;934-46

  • Colorectal cancer risk is not associated with increased levels of homozygosity in a population from the United Kingdom.

    Spain SL, Cazier JB, CORGI Consortium,, Houlston R, Carvajal-Carmona L and Tomlinson I

    Cancer research 2009;69;18;7422-9

Spain, Sarah L
Sarah's Timeline

Appointed Operations Manager for Open Targets


Appointed Research Administrator for Open Targets


Joined Jeff Barrett's group at Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (Open Targets, previously CTTV)


Joined Michael Simpson's Group at KCL working on genetics of cognitive ability


Awarded PhD Human Genetics (UCL). Supervised by Prof. Ian Tomlinson (now at Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, Oxford)


Joined KCL as a statistical geneticist working with Cathryn Lewis, Jonathan Barker and Christopher Mathew primarily on Psoriasis and IBD


Started PhD studentship at Cancer Research UK London Research Institute


Joined the London Research Institute at Cancer Research UK (as scientific officer in Ian Tomlinson's Population Genetics Laboratory)

Awarded MSc (Dist.) Medical Molecular Biology from University of Westminster


Awarded BSc (hons) Molecular and Cellular Biology from University of Kent at Canterbury