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Medical translation in the history of modern genomics

Miguel Garcia-Sancho

Funding: European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant

Details of funding:

October 1 2016 – September 30 2021

Miguel GarcĂ­a-Sancho, a Chancellor’s Fellow in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS), has been awarded a Starting Grant by the European Research Council. The grant of nearly 1.5 million euros will fund a five-year project which will look at changing patterns of organisation in three large-scale DNA sequencing initiatives: the human, yeast and pig genome projects. The PI and two postdoctoral research fellows will investigate how each genomic initiative organised the collection of DNA sequence information, in order to ease the translation of the data into relevant medical outcomes, such as biotechnology products and tools to combat human and animal disease.

The project’s initial hypothesis is that the yeast, human and pig genome projects started as bottom-up initiatives, in which a growing amount of sequence information was gathered through the coordination and pooling of results of a relatively large number of laboratories that were not specifically working on DNA sequencing. As the 1990s went by, this bottom-up approach was abandoned in favour of a top-down strategy in which a selective club of factory-style centres sequenced each genome from one end to the other.

The methodology will combine historical work in archives with quantitative and qualitative tools from the social sciences. This will require a systematic compilation of data about the actors involved in each genomic initiative which will be later submitted to Social Network Analysis (SNA). The design and interpretation of the SNA maps will be conducted in cooperation with Gil Viry, Niki Vermeulen and Ann Bruce, all of them involved in ISSTI.