What did I learn at the Festival of Genomics conference?

Last week I attended the excellent Festival of Genomics conference in London, organised by Front Line Genomics. This was the first time I had been to a conference as a communications person rather than as a scientist…something that felt quite strange.

In addition to live-tweeting many talks for The Institute of Cancer Research where I work, I also recorded some videos of ICR scientists on the conference floor. All were asked to respond to the same simple question: Why is genomics important for cancer research?. You can see the video responses on the ICR's YouTube channel.

I also made a very short video to highlight one unusual aspect of the conference…the talks were pretty much silent. Wireless headphones worn by all audience members meant that there was no need to amplify the speakers…and therefore no need for the four different 'lecture theatres' to actually have any walls!


My first ICR blog post!

My final task was to write a blog post about some aspect of the conference. Before the conference started, I thought I might write something that was more focused on genomics technologies. However, I was surprised by how much of the conference covered genomics as part of healthcare.

In particular, I was left with the sense that genomics is finally delivering on some of the promises made back in 2003 when the human genome sequence was published. One of the target areas that was mentioned in this 2003 NIH press release was 'New methods for the early detection of disease'.

This is something that is now possible with whole genome sequencing being deployed as part of the 100,000 genomes project (undertaken by Genomics England). The ability to screen a patient for all known genetic diseases leads to many concerns and challenges — you should see Gattaca if you haven't already done so — but it was heartening to see how much groundwork has been put in to stay on top of some of these issues.

This is my first proper blog post for the ICR, and if you are interested in finding out more, please read my post on the ICR's Science Talk blog: