On Thursday, 15th March the Sixth Form Biologists attended a lecture by Dr Ingrid Slade, who co-founded the Centre for Personalised Medicine at the University of Oxford.

She described how the techniques used for the Human Genome Project and how they had advanced so that now it is actually cheaper to decode a whole genome than to look at two genes in isolation. Research into genomics, rather than genetics, is being used to look at complex diseases like cancer and epilepsy and can allow patients to be prescribed the correct drug based on their genetic make up to avoid adverse side effects.

The British are international leaders in this field, with the 100k genome project aiming to sequence 100,000 genomes. The lecture focused on how genomes are sequenced (which is part of the A Level course) and the various ethical issues that this involves. Dr Slade explained how it was difficult for patients to give informed consent because the genomic sequencing may unveil other genetic problems which the patient or their family may not wish to know about and there are serious issues to consider about the storage of such data.  This led to the big question: should we do it just because we can do it?

The Sixth Form found the lecture fascinating, as it gave us a much deeper understanding of how biological techiques have evolved in recent years and the exciting potential for the future.