THE BLOG

Genomes and Gnomes

20/03/2016 17:58 GMT | Updated 17/03/2017 09:12 GMT

For this year's British Science Week, we launched two exciting new projects. Debates about genomics, DNA and data, and a set of animations featuring gnomes - yes, the garden statues with hats.

To start, the animations. They're part of a project which we've funded, along with the Wellcome Trust and the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus. It's called 'Socialising the Genome'. And if you're one of the people who say, geno-what -is that something to do with gnomes? Well, sort of.

The project is designed to find out how we can turn genomics - the science of DNA and its analysis - into an everyday conversation. Genomic medicine is set to become part of mainstream healthcare in the NHS. So it's likely that every one of us are set for some sort of genomic test in the future. Many will care little for the science behind genomic tests - in the same way many of us know little of the engine under the bonnet of our car. But unlike other types of tests, genomic testing doesn't just have implications for an individual, but your children and whole family too. And people worry about what it all might mean for insurance or who else gets to peek at the data from our blueprint.

The project team includes Dr Anna Middleton, a genetic counsellor, and Julian Borra, an advertising executive. Over 2015 they ran focus groups across the country to find out more about people's understanding of the words gene, DNA and genomes - even if they thought they knew nothing. Based on feedback, they then created six animations (and yes, one does include gnomes). The aim of the project is to discover new ways of delivering information about genomics - with messages that connect people to the science, messages that people want to share, and messages that help them when discovering genomics for the first time in the NHS.

The animations are designed to be shared, and get people talking. You can view them and take part in making them even better so that everyone gets the message. Take part, and leave your feedback at www.genetube.org

Our second project launched this week is with the British Science Association (BSA). We're delighted to be working with them, as part of their Future Debates series.

The British Science Association wants to empower many more people - not just scientists - to constructively engage in debates over science's role in their lives, their local economy, and the UK's future.

We are working the BSA across the country to make sure that debates about the future of genomics and data in healthcare, happen.

For more information about Genomics England and the 100,000 Genomes Project, see www.genomicsengland.co.uk

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