Festival of Genomics

The Festival of Genomics started in 2016 and, now in its fifth year, the Business Design Centre in London hosted over 100 Speakers, 50 Exhibitors and 1,800 attendees on 29th / 30th January for its latest incarnation.

With over 90% of attendees, from charities, the NHS and other health care professions and researcher groups, attending free it was an excellent opportunity to keep up to date with, and meet people at the leading edge of, genomics and its potential to improving diagnosis and care for sufferers of a wide range of major and rare diseases.

Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England, responsible for the healthcare science workforce in the NHS and associated bodies, lead off with an excellent presentation on the moves in the NHS for the use of genomics in the personalisation of medicine. Covering a wide range of topics from new and innovative techniques, through the need for effective Patient, Public and Professional engagement to the massive infrastructure required to manage and analyse the vast amount of data produced and requiring storage, the talk was much appreciated by a standing room only audience.

The Festival was actually set up by Rich Lumb, Founder and CEO at Front Line Genomics, following the death of his father from father to mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer. A number of other speakers and exhibitors this year were keen to present their own views on progress, and future objectives in this rapidly moving field.

This wide range of other speakers covered topics ranging across basic research; consulting in paediatrics with children with rare diseases; the changes required within medicine to match and manage these new challenges and visions as to how personalisation of medicine can be realised effectively. The realisation that, while genomics offers a wide range of opportunities, existing testing, such as karyotyping, has not yet been superseded and will need to remain was raised on several occasions.

For me, it was an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends and former colleagues, and make new contacts with groups, not only around the United Kingdom but around the world. For the first time, I met a Chinese company working in this area.

On a personal level it was interesting to note that, in one of my earlier projects, I lead a team to install a High Performance Computer Centre in Cambridge, a joint development between Cancer Research UK, Addenbrookes Hospital and Cambridge University. While that was considered leading edge in its time, in 2009, the technology and knowledge base has now been vastly surpassed, which is all to the good –  though it does mean that the articles and pictures of the time do seem to refer to a pre-historic animal (vegetarian, not carnivorous or likely to bite) in a version of Jurassic Park. But the important thing is that the world continues to move, and advance, at a massive rate, seriously enhancing our tools and techniques in research and medical support.

Dave Soderquest

Ring20 Events/Projects Manager

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