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21 years of the Progress Educational Trust (PET), informing debate on assisted conception and genetics

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Summer 2014 at the Progress Educational Trust

The Progress Educational Trust (PET) is having its busiest summer yet. Here's a whistle-stop tour of what the charity is up to, what's coming up and how you can get involved.

BREAST CANCER POLL - Have your say about breast cancer and genetic testing HERE

The latest research into the genetics of breast cancer has identified a gene that - in the words of the lead researcher - 'is a potential candidate to be BRCA3', following the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that are famously implicated in hereditary breast cancer. This news couldn't be more timely, as PET is currently running an online poll about breast cancer and genetic testing to which it would like your response.

By completing the poll, you will be helping to inform public debate about breast cancer. The poll contains seven questions - suggested by audiences at PET's recent 'Relative Risk', 'Risk Assessment', 'Risk Management' and 'Breast Cancer Risk' events - and takes only a minute or two to complete. Women and men are invited to respond to the poll, and you can submit your response here.

The poll forms part of PET's 'Breast Cancer: Chances, Choices and Genetics' project, which is supported by the Wellcome Trust. The project was inspired by the global discussion surrounding the double mastectomy undergone by actress Angelina Jolie (who carries a BRCA1 mutation), and also by the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling (.pdf 146KB) concerning the patenting of breast cancer predisposition genes.

David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, announces £300million worth of investment and a partnership between Genomics England and Illumina

Looking ahead, PET is delighted to announce two public events in the autumn, organised in collaboration with Genomics England - the company established by the UK Government to carry out the 100,000 Genomes Project. This ambitious project aims to sequence 100,000 whole genomes from NHS patients by 2017, and PET's upcoming events will provide you with an opportunity to put questions and comments to the people carrying out this work.

Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced £300million worth of investment in the project, and a partnership between Genomics England and the biotechnology company Illumina. These are developments which, according to Cameron, 'will see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years'. You can read Genomics England's Head of Engagement Vivienne Parry discuss the various ways that patients and the public are being involved in this work (including the upcoming PET events) here.

Dates and other details of the two events will be announced shortly. Watch this space.

Kári Stefánsson, Founder and Chief Executive of deCODE Genetics and speaker at the Progress Educational Trust's conference 'The Commercialisation of Life', taking place in central London on Tuesday 2 December 2014

In the meantime, one date you can already put in your diary is Tuesday 2 December, which is when PET's 2014 Annual Conference 'The Commercialisation of Life' is being held at University College London's Institute of Child Health.

This conference will explore questions and controversies surrounding the role of commerce in genetics and fertility treatment. Speakers will include Dr Kári Stefánsson, Founder and Chief Executive of deCODE Genetics - an Icelandic biopharmaceutical company whose work on the human genome has provoked wide-ranging debate during the past two decades.

Booking for the conference will open soon. You can register your interest now by emailing

Sarah Norcross, Director of the Progress Educational Trust (PET) and Commissioning Editor of PET's flagship publication BioNews

Finally, PET continues to be at the centre of debate surrounding mitochondrial donation. The Government's latest report on this subject quotes PET's response to a public consultation held earlier this year.

PET Director Sarah Norcross has been quoted by BBC News, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph discussing the Government's report, and Sarah has written an article on the matter for the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online.

Sarah has also been busy discussing mitochondrial donation in the international media, with the Brazilian news programme Fala Brasil visiting the PET office to interview her. You can watch the interview below - enjoy! Or as they say in Brazil, bom proveito!

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation

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The Progress Educational Trust was shortlisted for the Charity Times Awards 2011

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Find out more about the Progress Educational Trust by downloading our brochure HERE

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