My experience at The Festival of Genomics 2024.

I recently had the privilege of attending the Festival of Genomics 2024, and here is everything that I have to say about FoG2024. As the Head of Scientific Support and Development at UK Biocentre, a company specialising in automated sample storage and processing, I was eager to explore the latest advancements in genomics, biodata, and healthcare. Here's a glimpse into my exciting journey at the UK's largest annual life sciences event.

Our stall at the festival showcased our expertise in automated sample processing, including high-throughput extractions and preparations for genotyping and sequencing. It was promising to connect with other service providers, robotics experts, and suppliers who are all contributing to the dynamic landscape of genomics in addition to attending various talks by countries leading healthcare professionals.

Sue Hill's talk on the 'Latest developments from the NHS Genomics Medicine Service' kicked off the festival. Sue's leadership had inspired me when I was working on a MPU project with her amid the pandemic. The strides made by the NHS in embedding genomics studies, the evolution of pathology genomics centres, and the launch of cancer mRNA vaccines were nothing short of enlightening. Achieving 800,000 genomic tests in England for cancer and rare diseases is a testament to the transformative power of genomics in medicine.

There were two other talks on current and upcoming projects that left a lasting impression, not just because UK Biocentre was a part of those projects, but also because these initiatives were making significant advancements in genomics for healthcare.

Our Future Health UK, a ground-breaking initiative for population genomics and prevention research, aims to recruit 5 million volunteers. Having already enrolled, I'm excited to be part of this ambitious health research program that seeks more effective approaches to prevention, earlier detection, and treatment of diseases. Realising that I'm not merely a volunteer for the OFH study but also a small yet vital part of this grand initiative filled me with pride.

The Genomics England showcase, focusing on new-born screening studies, was equally fascinating. The talk about the Generation Study, which involves sequencing the genomes of 100,000 new-borns for rare genetic conditions, emphasised collaboration with parents, the public, researchers, and health professionals to address practical, ethical, and societal questions.

With a decade of experience in clinical sample processing, my role at UKBC aligns perfectly with my passion for projects like Our Future Health and Genomics England. At UK Biocentre, we currently handle the receipt and processing of Nucleic Acid extraction for the "Our Future Health" samples and are prepared to accept Genomics England Generation study samples for processing as well. These processed samples then make their way to other service providers for Genotyping/Sequencing. Witnessing the talks that spotlighted our role in this crucial process filled me with immense pride. It's truly gratifying to contribute to something as significant as advancing genomics for the improvement of healthcare.

The future of healthcare lies in understanding the human genome and tailoring treatments based on individual needs. It's about using data from the past to predict the future, unravelling the mysteries of life-threatening and rare diseases.

Beyond the knowledge gained, the festival was a delightful experience with unexpected perks. I walked away with a free headshot, a sweet treat in the form of a doughnut, and an assortment of goodies from the event. However, the true highlight for me was the fireside chat with the legendary Craig Venter. Stay tuned for a dedicated article on that unforgettable fan girl moment.

The Festival of Genomics, by Front Line Genomics is returning on January 29-30, 2025, at ExCeL, London, offers a free opportunity for genomics professionals and enthusiasts to engage with the latest developments in the field.

Sandhya Anantharaman PhD FIBMS
Head of Scientific Support and Development
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