First Minister: “Cardiff University’s research is helping to modernise our health service and is improving the future health of the people of Wales”
16 April 2013
The Wales Gene Park (WGP), which brings together the considerable expertise in genetics from across Wales, yesterday celebrated its 10th anniversary at an event hosted by Cardiff University.
Throughout the past decade, the Cardiff University-led initiative has drawn on the expertise of academics from Welsh universities, clinicians and educators to extend the frontiers of knowledge in medical genetics. Moreover, it has sought to engage professionals and the public in genetic issues and applications.
Director of the Wales Gene Park, Professor Julian Sampson, highlights the Wales Gene Park's role in promoting and facilitating the biosciences for health and economic benefit in Wales: "The work of the Wales Gene Park has improved understanding, diagnosis and treatment of inherited diseases and cancer and has ensured that these opportunities have been taken up by the NHS and commercial sector in Wales."
First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones added:
"Genetics is an area of particular research strength in Wales and the Wales Gene Park has played a significant role in this over the last 10 years. Cardiff University's close work with the NHS is helping to translate this research into medical practice, modernising our health service and improving the future health of the people of Wales."
Part of the project's mission is to promote and facilitate medical genetic research and to inform young people about the issues and opportunities raised by genetics. The WGP provides state-of-the-art technologies to researchers in Wales and innovative approaches to engage and educate health professionals in Wales and beyond.
Alastair J Kent, Director Genetic Alliance UK, said:
"We have been delighted to be involved with the Wales Gene Park from its inception and have found the support and expertise that we have gained to be invaluable to our work with patients and families across Wales. Giving patients a voice in this multi-stakeholder forum ensures that we are there to shape the future."The WGP was borne out of a multimillion pound proposal from Cardiff University and the University Of Wales College Of Medicine. The project won approval from the Departments of Health and Trade and Industry and the Welsh Development Agency in 2002, and continues to receive support from the Welsh Government.
Some of the greatest achievements in genetics over the last 10 years include:
- Professor Julie Williams CBE from Cardiff University's School of Medicine is one of the UK's leading figures in Alzheimer's research. Her research has focused on identifying and understanding genes which increase the risk of developing complex psychological and neurodegenerative disorders. Among her most important work is the discovery of susceptibility genes for Alzheimer's disease – findings highlighted by Time Magazine as among the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.
- Professor Alan Clarke and Dr Matt Smalley of Cardiff University's European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSCRI) have conducted pioneering studies into using genetically engineered murine models to further our understanding of the causes and treatments of cancer. Dr Smalley's research strives to identify the differences between individual tumour cells within breast cancer.
- Professor Jeremy Cheadle from Cardiff University's School of Medicine has helped identify both high and low risk genetic variations that predispose to bowel cancer. His laboratory has a strong track record in translating basic research into clinical practice. His research group is currently researching genetic variations that affect patient survival response to - and side effects from - chemotherapy in the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.
- Professor Julian Sampson from Cardiff University's School of Medicine has pioneered a drug treatment for the inherited disorder tuberous sclerosis that replaces the activity of the causative faulty gene. The treatment shrinks the brain and kidney tumours that patients with tuberous sclerosis develop and is now being trialled for autism and psychological problems that affect many of people with the condition.
- Wales Gene Park (WGP) Genomics Facility Lead Scientist, Dr James Colley, has through his implementation of Next Generation Sequencing revolutionised genetic research in Cardiff University and is set to bring that technology into the National Genetics Service for Wales. Over the next ten years the field faces numerous challenges as the rate at which we can sequence DNA raises serious questions regarding our ability to analyse and store it.
The Wales Gene Park 10th Anniversary celebration was held in the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. The day, punctuated by a series of talks by guest speakers, ran from 3pm until 7.15pm. The dinner was attended by representatives of Wales Gene Park and the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones.