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The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Sanger Institute
Written by Roma Publications

Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity and funder of research in the UK, more so than the government, investing more than £700 million in research and public engagement each year.

The charity fund 4000 academic researchers – about 10% overseas – as well as supporting major projects, new buildings and start up projects through its Innovation team, and supports as collaborations with pharmaceutical companies such as Glaxo Smith Kline.

Global health problems including cancer, malaria, diabetes, obesity and infectious disease are partially determined genetically. The Wellcome Trust has invested in its Genome Campus, south of Cambridge, UK, as a hub for genomics research. Initially home to the Sanger Institute, EMBL-EBI, a Europe-funded computer bioscience institute, and a Conference Centre, the Campus has been expanding over the past three years.

The Sanger Institute is one of the world’s leading genome centres, undertaking bold and long-term exploratory projects to support the development of new diagnostics and treatments for human disease. At the Sanger Institute the team is able to build on genome sequences and engage in biomedical research that elucidates the genetic basis of such common diseases as well as rare or neglected diseases.

Premier Construction caught up with Duncan Parsley, Capital Projects Director from Genome Research Limited (GRL) which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Wellcome Trust and operator of the Sanger Institute. Duncan explained how the Wellcome Trust was continuing to flourish and expand, making significant scientific and medical breakthroughs as it does so.

Talking about the latest project on Campus, Duncan commented:

“In December 2012 David Cameron officially announced a Government initiative to map 100,000 genomes by 2017. Earlier last year I said I could build a new facility by the summer of 2015 so we have been pushing for that ever since and are currently in the middle of constructing a new three storey, 4800 sq metre purpose built sequencing facility.

“The £26.7 million venue will open in August 2015 and forms part and is the start of the Campus master plan.

The campus currently comprises 59,000 square metres of facilities and will soon see the completion of the 4,800 square metre sequencing building, followed by the 3,600 square metre bio-data innovation centre.

Duncan said the Wellcome Genome Campus is keen to be recognised as a centre of excellence globally and since he joined the Trust 12 years ago the Institute and Campus have developed their expertise around sequencing and data storage.

This sequencing building project is extremely important to the Campus as it forms an integral part of the GRL’s master plan. Without these new buildings and collaborations the Campus would not be able to deliver its ten year vision. Duncan added:
“We only exist to conduct research and without the buildings to do the research we will cease to exist. The Trust invests in new buildings on this Campus and in the last 13 years the facilities have doubled on the 130 acre campus.

“In 1995 there were 15 staff at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and now there is 1,850 staff on the Campus; this illustrates the l growth in every area. We need these buildings to continue delivering for the benefit of human and animal kind.”

The Campus now comprises a residential conference centre, 150 bedrooms in a 4* venue, a 300 seat auditorium, a data centre, research support buildings, office based research spaces and laboratories. The team have also recently built a new residential block for Conference visitors.

The aim of the Government initiative is that within ten years patients will be able to visit their doctor’s surgery, have their bloods taken, and have their genomes mapped there and then. This would allow doctors to prescribe medication or treatment that is most suitable for the patient dependent on their genes as opposed to working with a generic prescription, as most are currently.

Sanger Institute

Wellcome Trust

Genomes are the archival instructions upon which an organism is built. The sequence data provided by the Human Genome Project is a rich source of information that drives improved understanding of human health and variation. Studying human sequences, comparing model organism genomes and investigating the effects of pathogens on humans will build knowledge of the diversity of our genomes and how this affects our susceptibility to disease.

By investigating genomes, The Sanger Institute is able to study diseases that have an impact on health globally. The team builds understanding of gene function in health and disease as well as creating resources of lasting value to biomedical research.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute was formed in 1993 and since their inception has participated in some of the most important advances in genomic research, developing new understanding of genomes and their role in biology.

Since the Sanger Institute’s contribution to the Human Genome Project, they have developed their science to make further achievements in the understanding of genetics in health and disease and expanded to maintain a position at the forefront of biomedical research.

The Sanger Institute’s achievements have been part of large scale efforts, over the last half century, to understand the role of genetics in biology. The institute is a leader in many international consortia that harness the skills of their participants to achieve goals that none alone could. More than 90% of their research output is carried out in collaboration with other organisations. As a result their achievements are part of and dependent on global efforts to understand the molecular genetic basis of ourselves.

The Wellcome Trust initially created GRL to map the human genome and from 2000 onwards there was a race between the UK and USA to do this. The largest single part of the genome was mapped at the Sanger Institute; this process took ten years and now the team are able to map 14 genomes in one day. This illustrates how much the technology has moved on and reflects the institute as one of the largest data centres in the world for research.

The Wellcome Trust originally leased the Campus on a short term contract but soon decided to invest in the campus. Now every five years the Sanger Institute puts in a research submission to the Trust and seek funding to carry out more research.

The Government initiative aims eventually to sequence every person in the country, educate the NHS and people in order to deliver health improvements from genomics. The Campus aim is to support the use of genomics in healthcare, to deliver life-changing science through its ten year vision. Since its foundation the Institute has engaged with local and school communities and, in the future, the Campus development will support expansion of the outreach programme to schools and institutions to engage people in the developing genomic science and its implications for all of us.


 Smartcomm is an audio visual systems integrator, specialising in the design, installation and support of corporate and residential audio visuals systems. The company has been in operation for 18 years and within this time has worked on numerous high profile AV projects, including Wellcome Trust EBI Technical Hub, Sulston Shared Facilities Building, Sir Francis Crick Auditorium refurbishment and the Rosalind Franklin Pavilion Conference Room refurbishment.

Working on the new facility for the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Smartcomm is the audio visual integration partner on the project. The company is providing presentation facilities within the building’s two meeting rooms and a teaching room, a hearing loop in reception and digital signage in the adjoining library.

The meeting rooms include a 95” LED presentation display; wireless and hardwired laptop connectivity; voice re-enforcement microphone facilities; audio reproduction via ceiling speakers; and integrated hard of hearing loop system. Meanwhile, the classroom includes a height adjustable DDA compliant smart interactive whiteboard presentation display; hardwired laptop connectivity; voice re-enforcement microphone facilities for presentations; ceiling speakers; and an integrated hard of hearing loop system.

Barrie Lane, Commercial Systems Consultant at Smartcomm, said:

“Smartcomm are proud of our on-going relationship with the Sanger Institute organisation. Having worked on many interesting projects over the past three years we see great value in helping to build a campus wide AV standard to ensure the client has a strong technology strategy moving forward. This will be especially important as the campus grows and more users require reliable and consistent AV facilities for collaboration and information sharing.”

Barrie added:

“We pride ourselves on being an attentive supply chain partner that understands that each of our clients is unique, so we tailor our solutions offering to suit. We are flexible enough to react to client requirements when needed and are structured in such a way that we can deliver projects both small and large with efficiency.”

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