What does the future of our genome hold?

Living DNA attend several events, gaining insight from genetics specialists.

One of our passions at Living DNA is meeting people and connecting with those that are equally passionate of science and genetics. The incredible insights that come from these events deserve to be captured so we wanted to highlight a couple of events in July that we attended.

The first event was a fascinating workshop hosted by the Anthropology department of UCL. The day was packed with engaging talks, thought provoking focus groups and sometimes hot topic discussions. The audience consisted of people from a huge range of backgrounds, including ancestry researchers, geneticists, citizen scientists and members of the public. A particular highlight was the keynote speech by scientist and BBC presenter, Dr Adam Rutherford. He set the tone for a series of ethical explorations of personal genomic testing, focusing on ancestry and how it is linked to identity.

At Living DNA we’re passionate to your ancestry "in context" giving you not just the fine scale breakdown of your recent ancestry but how that fits into the world picture. This context is something that Adam Rutherford, as well as MC for the day, Prof Mark Thomas find equally important. Many at this event shared the feeling that this is the missing magic in the way DNA testing for ancestry is delivered by the wider industry, noting Living DNA as the exception.

Other highlights include a panel of Ancestry experts, including our Managing Director David Nicholson, discussing the challenges and wider applications of Ancestry testing. Our One Family. One World anti-racism project is an excellent example of this.

Within the highly technical talks was a particularly relevant section on the challenges of security and privacy of genomic data. We found this reassuring as it demonstrated how important our users’ security is to us and the extensive steps we take to protect it. Everyone’s key interest is ensuring personal genomic testing is delivered in a responsible way, always putting the user first. The Living DNA team walked away enthusiastic, and full of new ideas for the company, as well as a wealth of knowledge from connections made across many disciplines.

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The second event, hosted by the Wellcome Trust, was a look to the future, going beyond genetics to genomics, with the Chief Medical Officer Prof. Sally Davies discussing her annual report on Genomics.

So, what’s the difference between genetics and genomics? Well, genetics is the study of inherited traits, say a particular characteristic in a family. Genomics goes beyond this, looking at the wider story told by your DNA. From our ancestry tests, we know that looking at just one gene, a small section of our genetic code, doesn’t tell the full story. So, with a genomic approach we look across the entire genome, inspecting all the DNA wound up in all 46 of our chromosomes. There are different ways to do this, and for our ancestry tests, we use a specially designed chip that looks for a set of specific changes across the genome that have been previously identified, but tonight’s talk discussed the next step.

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So, what does the future hold? Medicines tailored to our genomes, personalised cancer treatments, diagnoses of rare disease, a greater understanding of the genetics of diabetes and obesity, to name but a few. While it’s clear from tonight’s discussion we aren’t quite there yet, and there are many ethical questions to answer, there is definitely hope on the horizon. And the horizon is not that far away.

Here at Living DNA we are always looking to the future, so what’s next for us in this genomic revolution? Well, one thing is for certain, we are very excited to be part of what is being called #generationgenome.