As the science of genomics begins to transform healthcare in Europe, a revamped website to inform and inspire the curious about advances in DNA sequencing is set to launch at the Association for Science Education’s Annual Conference.
By Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
With the UK Government’s pledge to understand the genomes of 100,000 people and the UK launch of 23andMe, a company that will provide genotyping for just £125, genomics has been catapulted into the public consciousness. yourgenome.org, a website developed by public engagement professionals at the Wellcome Genome Campus, aims to provide accessible, entertaining and thought-provoking guides to an area of science that is revolutionising diagnosis and treatment.
“Genomics is constantly in the news but, for many, DNA and its role in our biology is still something of a mystery,” says Julia Willingale-Theune, manager of Public Engagement at the Wellcome Genome Campus. “With yourgenome.org, we want to share what scientists know about the genome already and what they are trying to find out, helping everyone to understand and engage with a topic that’s likely to have a huge impact on their future health.”
The website provides key facts about genomics and bioinformatics with the help of videos and 3D animations. Magazine-style stories provide insight from experts into advances in research and applications in healthcare. The website also features debates that give readers a balanced view of the more controversial aspects of genomics, such as data security, animal research and gene therapy.
We want to help everyone to understand and engage with a topic that’s likely to have a huge impact on their future health.
Content on the website is driven by an editorial board comprised of expert researchers and specialists in science education and communication from the Wellcome Genome Campus and beyond. This editorial board will ensure that the website remains up-to-date, relevant and accurate.
The Wellcome Genome Campus is home to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which made the greatest single contribution to the Human Genome Project in 2003 and has remained at the forefront of genetic research ever since. It is also home to the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), a global leader in the storage, analysis and dissemination of large biological datasets. EMBL-EBI helps scientists realise the potential of ‘big data’, enhancing their ability to exploit complex information to make discoveries that benefit mankind. Experts from both institutes have helped to ensure that all the information on yourgenome.org is scientifically accurate.
“During our lifetimes, the way we experience healthcare will change; in the next decade many aspects of care, from diagnosis to medication, and many lifestyle choices will depend on the information encoded in our genome,” explains Jon Kudlick, Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications at the Society of Biology. “yourgenome.org is a valuable resource that will explain the latest research, providing invaluable information for teachers and students in lessons, for families affected by genetic disease, and for those who want to find out more about genomics stories they see in the media.”
The redesign, which was driven by research and focus groups involving more than 4 000 users, features an easy-to-navigate interface that splits content up by topic and article type. The website answers a range of questions, from the relatively straightforward ‘what is a genome?’ to the more complex ‘what is sickle cell anaemia?’, allowing visitors to explore and develop their understanding at their own pace.
About the contributors
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world’s leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease. http://www.sanger.ac.uk
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk
The European Bioinformatics Institute is part of EMBL, Europe’s flagship laboratory for the life sciences. EMBL-EBI provides freely available data from life science experiments covering the full spectrum of molecular biology. While we are best known for our provision of bioinformatics services, about 20 per cent of our institute is devoted to basic research. Our extensive training programme helps researchers in academia and industry to make the most of the incredible amount of data being produced every day in life science experiments. We are a non-profit, intergovernmental organisation funded by EMBL member states. Our 540 staff represent 55 nationalities, and we welcome a regular stream of visiting scientists throughout the year. http://www.ebi.ac.uk/