News archive 2005
New genetics labs open at King's11 Nov 2005, PR 99/05
Cutting edge new laboratories for the Department of Medical & Molecular Genetics at King's College London were opened by Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust on 10 November.
The Henry Wellcome labs for Medical & Molecular Genetics are based over three floors in the Guy's Tower, on the Guy's campus of the College, and provide state of the art facilities for researchers studying the genetic basis of diseases ranging from breast cancer to high blood pressure.
Over the last five years the Department has shifted the emphasis of its research from finding genes associated with disorders with relatively simple genetic causes to studying more complex disease genetics, asking how genes interact with the environment and each other, and how they increase a person's risk of suffering from conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, or heart disease. Other groups are studying the function of genes and their products at a cellular and structural level, and using their findings to develop possible therapeutic interventions. The NHS clinical diagnostic laboratories for Guy's Hospital and the SE Thames clinical genetics service work closely with the Department.
Professor Ellen Solomon who heads the Department said of their work: ‘Gene therapy may help combat a small selection of disorders in the future, but I see a more exciting and likely prospect in pharmacogenetics. The work we are undertaking in our new labs will help identify the genetic variation within populations that predisposes individuals to different physical and behavioural traits as well as diseases, and identify which people will respond to different treatments. We are also researching how combinations of genes interact with environmental factors to predispose to disease, and together this knowledge will help guide the formulation of future health advice and future medicines.'
The refurbishment of the laboratories has been funded by grants totalling £9 million, courtesy of the Wellcome Trust and the Guy's and St Thomas' Charity. This project forms part of a £400 million redevelopment of the College's estate – the largest undertaken by any university in the country.
The laboratories provide a self-contained working environment for the staff of the Department of Medical & Molecular Genetics. Each group has its own laboratory and separate desk space, as well as shared facilities including a library, computer suite, microscopy suite and high throughput genomics facilities.
The latter contains state of the art technology including high capacity DNA sequencers, some of which can detect specific variations in DNA that may or may not play a role in disease; and microarray analysers, which can compare the expression of a wide range of genes between different tissues or individuals.
Geoff Shepherd, Chief Executive of Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, which awarded over £2 million towards the refurbishment costs, said: ‘The trustees of the Charity were keen to support the refurbishment of the existing facilities to boost the capabilities of the research team led by Professor Ellen Solomon. The diagnostic services which are offered from the Division are greatly enhanced and will be of particular benefit to local communities. The outcomes of its human genetics research will of course have much wider implications for the health service.'
Notes to editors
Projects within the Department of Medical & Molecular Genetics include:
- Searching for genes that increase susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease and other complex genetic disorders (Professor Christopher Mathew)
- Creating an in-vitro test for the function of BRCA1, a protein which when defective can predispose people to early onset familial breast cancer, which could be used as a diagnostic tool to identify women at risk of the disease (Professor Ellen Solomon)
- Developing vectors that can be used in the gene-therapy treatment of muscular dystrophy and blood disorders, such as beta-thalassaemia (Dr Michael Antoniou)
- Investigating the use of histone deacetylase inhibitors as therapeutic agents against Huntington's disease (Professor Gill Bates)
- Acting as the UK lead for a European-wide study to find out if detecting the recurrence of the genetic translocation that leads to acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL) in the bone marrow of patients with APL who have undergone treatment at an early stage, can help prevent relapse (Dr David Grimwade)
King's College London
King's College London is one of the two oldest and largest colleges of the University of London with over 13,800 undergraduate students and nearly 5,700 postgraduates in nine schools of study. It is a member of the Russell Group: a coalition of the UK's major research-based universities.
The College has had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level, and it has recently received an excellent result in its audit by the Quality Assurance Agency. King's is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings, with income from grants and contracts of £100 million, and has an annual turnover of more than £348 million. In 2004 the College was once again awarded an AA- financial credit rating from Standard & Poor's.
The Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is an independent research-funding charity established in 1936 under the will of tropical medicine pioneer Sir Henry Wellcome. The Trust's mission is to promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health and it currently spends more than £400m p.a.
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