Functional Genomics

Understanding genetics through computation and experimentation

Our functional genomics program combines theory and practice to capitalize on the wealth of information available from genomic sequencing. We’re driven by a desire to understand human disease through analysing patients and relevant animal models – which means our work can often be translated into clinical practice.

Much of our work is based on the core principle of using model organisms to better understand human disease. A major driving force behind our research, for instance, is the MRC Functional Genomics Unit (FGU). Using genomic information from patients, it combines rigorous computational analysis and interpretation to identify the genetic origins of common neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

Elsewhere, our researchers work across a wide range of diseases, but are always led by clinical relevance. Studying the single gene defects responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy has led to effective treatments for the disease in mice which are now being translated for use in human, for instance, while computational analysis of enormous genomic data sets is shedding light on the origins of neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and ADHD. Even some of our most basic work, such as fruit fly genetics, is resulting in the discovery of new cellular organelles and uncovering the basis of sexual development.

In the future, the availability of genomic data looks set to increase exponentially, and our Computational Genomics Analysis and Training Programme (www.cgat.org) is equipping researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds to process and interpret their results more efficiently. While there’s no denying that genomic information has begun to transform the treatment of patients, we hope to ensure it will increasingly make good on its early promise and continues to flourish.