This week at the Progress Educational Trust (22 June 2017)
Demand for places at the Progress Educational Trust (PET)'s upcoming event 'What Next for Genomics? Providing Answers, Changing Lives, Transforming the NHS' has been so overwhelming, the event was fully booked within hours of being announced. PET is producing this event in partnership with Genomics England, the organisation established by the UK Government to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project.
The event will see speakers including Professor Dame Sally Davies (Chief Medical Officer at the UK Government), Professor Sue Hill (Chief Scientific Officer at NHS England), Professor Sir Stephen O'Rahilly (Head of Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge) and Professor Michael Parker (Chair of Genomics England's Ethics Advisory Committee) discuss the future of genomic medicine and the NHS. The discussion will be chaired by Mark Henderson (Director of Communications at the Wellcome Trust).
If you weren't able to secure a place before bookings closed, rest assured that PET and Genomics England are already planning follow-up events in London and elsewhere. Watch this space for further details, and if tweeting about these events or this topic please use the hashtag #PETgenomic
PET has already been busy discussing genomic medicine and the 100,000 Genomes Project at three events which ran concurrently in London - the World Precision Medicine Congress, the World Advanced Therapies and Regenerative Medicine Congress, and Cord Blood World.
These events saw representatives of industry, academia and patient organisations from around the world visit PET's exhibition stand to find out about the charity's work and subscribe to its long-running publication BioNews. BioNews recently published its 900th weekly edition - subscribe to the publication here, to receive the latest news and views on genetics, fertility and embryo/stem cell research in your inbox for free every week.
Another aspect of genomics which is currently at the forefront of PET's work is genome editing. The charity's Director Sarah Norcross participated in a day of discussion entitled 'Human Germline Gene Editing in Global Context', held on the 17th floor of the Shard.
PET has also been collaborating with its fellow charity Genetic Alliance UK on a project entitled 'Basic Understanding of Genome Editing', supported by the Wellcome Trust. Most recently, this project has involved PET/BioNews Legal Editor Jennifer Willows and PET Volunteer Tanya Brigden visiting the Institute of Cancer Research, to see how genome editing is being used to improve our understanding of cancer.
PET has been equally busy in the world of (in)fertility. Sarah chaired the morning half of the British Infertility Counselling Association's recent Annual Conference, which this year was entitled 'The Changing Face of Family'. Sarah has also been giving radio interviews, in her capacity as Co-Chair of the campaigning organisation Fertility Fairness.
Meanwhile, PET Communications Officer Sandy Starr has been giving presentations to two very different groups of students.
First he gave a talk about human embryo research at the East London Science School, discussing the history, science and law of this field with a room full of eager Year 8 pupils. Then he spoke at a Careers Day for graduate students, organised by Professor Joyce Harper at University College London's Institute for Women's Health.
Sandy's fellow speakers at the latter event included BioNews writers Dr Rachel Brown and Dr Katie Howe, who explained how working with PET had helped advance their careers. Rachel is an alumnus of the BioNews Writing Scheme, which sees PET train graduate students in the art of science and news writing.
Besides Rachel, many other alumni of the Writing Scheme have gone on to enjoy successful careers. For example, Joseph Jebelli has just published his first book In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer's, which is receiving some excellent reviews. Another alumnus of the Writing Scheme, Helen Robertson, was recently a winner of the Nature Jobs Journalism Competition.
Elsewhere, PET Trustee Dr Christine Patch has just become President of the European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG), taking over the role at that organisation's 50th anniversary conference in Copenhagen.
Her predecessor in the role, Professor Olaf Riess, saluted her as follows: 'The ESHG is proud to have Christine Patch as its next president, in the hope of giving a strong voice as a communicator to keep British scientists integrated into European research funding and also in the recently established European Reference Networks for rare diseases.'
Another PET Trustee, Professor Allan Pacey, is rarely out of the media spotlight. His recent work developing a radar-like technique for sorting sperm is discussed on BioNews here, and you can also find him quoted in BioNews articles about plant chemicals that might lead to a new male contraceptive pill and about a mathematical formula for the movement of sperm.
Most recently, Allan was interviewed in the first episode of the Channel 4 programme How to Stay Well, where he discussed the effect on male fertility of wearing tight underwear.
Like Allan, PET Patron Professor Marcus Pembrey has been receiving widespread media attention for his research - in particular his work on a possible epigenetic connection between women who smoke during pregnancy and autism in their grandchildren, as discussed on BioNews here.
Marcus also gave a recent presentation at the Royal Society for Public Health, at a conference on the use of epigenetic data from almost 1,200 participants in the Understanding Society project. He will next be discussing epigenetics in a presentation at this year's Latsis Symposium in Zürich.
Baroness Mary Warnock, also a Patron of PET, continues to feature prominently in debate about the 14-day limit on human embryo research - a limit originally proposed in a landmark report which the UK Government commissioned her to write as the head of an expert committee 35 years ago. Mary has discussed the 14-day rule in a recent article for BioNews and in a keynote presentation at last year's PET Annual Conference, as reported on BioNews here.
Mary will next be discussing this topic in a keynote address at the British Library, at an event celebrating the life and work of a key member of her committee - the late Dame Anne McLaren. You can read about Anne's vital contribution to the Warnock report and the 14-day rule in this article on the British Library website, and in this article by Professor Sarah Franklin (who chairs the Anne McLaren Memorial Trust).
The possibility of revising the 14-day limit has also been discussed by PET's Sandy Starr in a presentation to MPs in Parliament, and is the subject of new journal articles published by the Hastings Centre, by BioMed Central and by the Company of Biologists.
PET is delighted to confirm that its 2017 Annual Conference will build on this theme, exploring related scientific and medical boundaries and what it means to cross them. The conference is taking place in central London on Friday 8 December, and further details will be announced shortly. Save the date!