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EBI and Sulston Laboratories of the Sanger Institute.
Morgan (left) and Sulston Laboratories (background) of the Sanger Institute.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI), formerly the Sanger Centre, is a genomics research institute.[1] The institute is named after double Nobel Laureate, Frederick Sanger. It is located on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, in the United Kingdom, by the village of Hinxton, outside Cambridge. It shares this location with the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI).

Researchers at the Sanger Institute, amongst other practices, use large-scale DNA sequencing, informatics, and analysis of genetic variation, in order to "further [understand] gene function in health and disease".[2]


History of the Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute was established in 1992, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the UK's Medical Research Council. One of the primary goals of the Institute on its creation, was "to play a substantial role in the sequencing and interpretation of the human genome".[3] The Sanger Institute now hosts several research programmes aiming to elucidate the associations between genes and biological traits - most often disease susceptibilities. The Sanger Institute has, since inception, maintained a policy where data is made "available for public use"[4] as it is generated.


The Wellcome Trust Genome Campus

In 1993 the then 17 Sanger Institute staff moved into temporary laboratory space at Hinxton Hall[5] in Cambridgeshire. This 55-acre site was to become the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, which has a growing population of around 1300 staff, over 800 of whom work at the Sanger Institute.[6] A major extension of the campus was officially opened in 2005;[7] the buildings accommodate new laboratories, a data centre and staff amenities. The Genome Campus also includes the Wellcome Trust Conference Centre and the EBI.

The Human Genome Project

The Sanger Institute was opened in 1993, three years after the inception of the Human Genome Project, and went on to make the largest single contribution to the gold standard sequence of the human genome, published in 2004.[8] The Institute was engaged in collaborations to sequence 8 of the 23 human pairs of chromosomes (1, 6, 9, 10, 13, 20, 22, and X).[9] Since the publishing of the human genome, research carried out at the Institute has diversified beyond sequencing of organisms into various biomedical research areas, including studies into diseases such as cancer, malaria and diabetes.

Sir John E. Sulston

Sir John E. Sulston was the founding Director of the Sanger Institute. Sulston was instrumental in the choice of the Hinxton site for the Institute and remained there as Director until the announcement of the completion of the draft human genome in 2000.[10] Sulston graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1963 and completed his PhD on the chemical synthesis of DNA in 1966.[11] He shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Robert Horvitz and Sydney Brenner,[12] two years after standing down as Director of the Institute.

Professor Allan Bradley

In 2000, Allan Bradley left his appointment as Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, in the USA, to take up the position as Director of the Sanger Institute. Bradley wanted to build on the achievements made by the Sanger Institute in the Human Genome Project by "concentrating on gene function, cancer genomics, and the genomes of model organisms such as the mouse and the zebrafish".[13] Bradley received his BA, MA and PhD in Genetics from the University of Cambridge.[14]


The Sanger Institute is a non-profit organisation, funded primarily by the Wellcome Trust. The Wellcome Trust is "the largest independent charity in the UK and the second largest medical research charity in the world. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year"[15] to support scientific research. Individual studies carried out at the Sanger Institute are supported by a variety of other funding bodies.


Since 2000, the Sanger Institute has built on its sequencing skills to develop new programmes in postgenomic biology - understanding the messages in genes. The Institute endeavours to maintain a position "at the forefront of experimental and computational genome research".[16] The Institute engages in five main areas of research:

Human Genetics

The Sanger Institute's research in Human Genetics focuses on the characterisation of human genetic variation in health and disease. Aside from the Institute's contribution to the Human Genome Project, researchers at the Sanger Institute have made contributions in various research areas relating to disease, population comparative and evolutionary genetics. In January 2008, the launch of the 1000 Genomes Project, a collaboration with scientists around the globe, signalled an effort to sequence the genomes of 1000 individuals in order to create the "most detailed map of human genetic variation to support disease studies".[17] The Sanger Institute is also part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium, an international effort to describe different cancer tumour types.[18]

Model Organism Genetics

Model Organism Genetics at the Sanger Institute uses genome sequence of model organisms such as mouse, zebrafish, S. pombe (fission yeast), S. cerevisiae (a species of budding yeast) and X. tropicalis (pipid frog) in experimental genetics to elucidate genome function in human health and disease. Projects include study of development, cancer, hearing and Genes2Cognition.

Pathogen Genetics

The Institute carries out research in Pathogen Genetics to bolster understanding of the effects of genome variation on the biology of host-pathogen interactions. Research is underway at the Sanger Institute into the genomes of pathogens including many bacteria, viruses and parasites. Annotation and sequence comparison tools like Artemis and ACT respectively were developed by Pathogen Genetics team and are freely available both for download and for web based use. The Pathogen Sequencing Advisory Group (PSAG) of the sequencing unit is open and approachable for scientists having proposals or suggestions for sequencing of any genome of particlar importance. All the genomes after sequencing are made available at the web based onsite maintained database GeneDB.


The Sanger Institute's Bioinformatics teams have developed IT systems for sequencing and postgenomic research. The Institute houses genome resources, RNA, protein and other family resources and functional annotation databases and resources. Researchers worldwide are able to use these resources to make inferences of genomic knowledge through computational analysis and integration of data.


The Sanger Institute's Sequencing staff handle millions of DNA samples each week. The Institute "has made significant investment in new sequencing technologies"[19] which have yielded genome sequences of various organisms. The advances in technology allow the Sanger Institute to carry out sequencing of the genomes of indivual humans, vertebrate species and more than 90[20] pathogens, at an ever increasing pace and reducing cost. The output of the Sanger Institute is around 10 billion bases of raw sequence data per day.[21]


The Sanger Institute is home to a Faculty of more than 30 experts whose areas of interest represent the Sanger Institute's genetics research programmes. These research leaders engage in hypothesis-driven science in a variety of scientific fields. They are:

Adams, David Experimental Cancer Genetics
Barrell, Bart Pathogen Informatics
Barrett, Jeffrey Statistical and computational genetics of human disease
Barroso, Inês Metabolic Disease Group
Bateman, Alex Classification of protein and RNA families
Berriman, Matt Parasite Genomics
Billker, Oliver Malaria Programme
Bradley, Allan Mouse Genomics
Carter, Nigel Molecular Cytogenetics
Deloukas, Panos Genetics of complex traits in humans
Dougan, Gordon Microbial Pathogenesis
Durbin, Richard Genome Informatics
Futreal, Andy Cancer Genome Project
Grant, Seth Genes to Cognition
Hubbard, Tim Vertebrate Genome Analysis
Hurles, Matthew Genome Dynamics and Evolution
Kellam, Paul Virus Genomics
Kwiatkowski, Dominic Malaria Programme
Liu, Pentao Mouse Cancer Genetics
Palotie, Aarno Genetics of Common Neurological Diseases
Parkhill, Julian Pathogen Sequencing
Peltonen, Leena Genome-wide profiling of human diseases
Rayner, Julian Malaria Programme
Skarnes, Bill Gene Trap Mutagenesis
Soranzo, Nicole Genomics of quantitative trait variation in humans
Steel, Karen Genetics of Deafness
Stemple, Derek Vertebrate Development and Genetics
Stratton, Mike Cancer Genome Project
Tyler-Smith, Chris Human Evolution
Wright, Gavin Cell Surface Signalling Laboratory
Zeggini, Eleftheria Applied Statistical Genetics



The Sanger Institute's research is embedded in the efforts of the wider scientific community. Much of the Sanger Institute's research is carried out in collaboration with other Institutes.

Significant Collaborations

In addition to these large scale collaborations, individual research leaders at the Sanger Institute also collaborate on smaller projects with groups from around the world. Over 90%[23] of the Institute's research papers involve collaborations with other organisations.

Public Engagement

Because of its prominent role in genome research, the Sanger Institute has a programme of public engagement activity, aimed at making the Institute's research and staff accessible to public audiences. The stated aims are to "stimulate interest in biomedical science"[24 ] and to encourage "informed discussion about issues relevant to Sanger Institute research".[24 ] The Institute hosts onsite tours, talks and activities and has a dedicated public website. The Institute and its researchers also contribute to big engagement projects such as the UK's InsideDNA travelling exhibition, and also produce teaching resources for school science teachers.


Database resources are one of the outcomes of research programmes that the Sanger Institute is involved in. Resources housed by the Sanger Institute include:

Graduate Training

One of the aims of the Sanger Institute is to train the next generation of scientists that will make contributions to the field of biomedicine and biological science. The Institute primarily operates two PhD training programmes: the 4-Year course for basic science graduates, and the 3-Year course for clinicians. The 4-Year course consists of a period at commencement of training wherein the student is rotated around three different laboratories in order to broaden their scientific horizons and expose them to a variety of practices and fields. Each student is required to choose at least one experimental (lab-based) rotation project and one informatics rotation project, allowing the students to have a taste of both fields before choosing their final PhD project. After this, the student settles into a single laboratory for the remaining duration of their studies.[25]

At present, the Institute houses approximately 50 pre-doctoral students, all of whom are registered at the University of Cambridge.


  1. ^ "MRC Centre United Kingdom: Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute". Medical Research Council. Retrieved 2008-12-22.  
  2. ^ "Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Homepage". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  3. ^ "Sanger Institute - General Information". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  4. ^ "Guidelines on the use of data in publications". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  5. ^ "History of the Sanger Institute". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  6. ^ "Careers at the Sanger Institute". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  7. ^ "Wellcome Trust Genome Campus Extension Opened: Visit by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2009-01-07.  
  8. ^ Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (2004). "Finishing the euchromatic sequence of the human genome". Nature 431: 931–945. doi:10.1038/nature03001.  
  9. ^ Pennisi E (2003). "Reaching Their Goal Early, Sequencing Labs Celebrate". Science 300: 409. doi:10.1126/science.300.5618.409.  
  10. ^ "International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium Announces "Working Draft" of Human Genome". National Human Genome Research Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  11. ^ Sulston J, Ferry G (2002). The Common Thread: A story of Science, Politics, Ethics, and the Human Genome. The Joseph Henry Press. p. 18.  
  12. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2002". Nobel Prize. Retrieved 2009-01-07.  
  13. ^ "Sanger Institute looks to the future". Genome Biology. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  14. ^ "Professor Allan Bradley". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  15. ^ "Wellcome Trust Homepage". Wellcome Trust. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  16. ^ "Sanger Institute Faculty Research: Faculty Research". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-09.  
  17. ^ "1000 Genomes: A Deep Catalog of Human Genetic Variation". 1000 Genomes Project. Retrieved 2008-12-22.  
  18. ^ "International Cancer Genome Consortium Homepage". International Cancer Genome Consortium. Retrieved 2009-01-23.  
  19. ^ "Seeing the enemy up close: New-technology DNA sequencing boosts cancer genome research". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-22.  
  20. ^ "Pathogen Genomics". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.  
  21. ^ Jones, I. "Feature: Highly cited". Wellcome Trust. Retrieved 2009-01-22.  
  22. ^ "Sanger Institute Faculty Research: Faculty Research". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2008-09-12.  
  23. ^ Figure based on data for 2008 retrieved from SCOPUS website
  24. ^ a b "Team 104: Communication and Public Engagement Programme". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2009-01-12.  
  25. ^ "Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute PhD Programmes". Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Retrieved 2009-11-13.  

External links

Coordinates: 52°05′N 0°11′E / 52.083°N 0.183°E / 52.083; 0.183


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