GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80

 
GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80

GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS
 In this issue                                                              The Genetics Society News is edited by
                                                                            Dr Lynsey Hall and items for future issues
 • Mitochondrial Donation - all things considered
                                                                            can be sent to the editor by email to
 • C. elegans - Sectional Interest Group in the spotlight                   HallL10@cardiff.ac.uk.
 • Research and travel grant reports
                                                                            The Newsletter is published twice a year,
 • Meeting announcements                                                    with copy dates of July and January.

Cover image: Genetics Society members in attendance at the Autumn Meeting
“Genotype to Phenotype to Fitness” hosted by the University of Exeter.
Photograph courtesy of Doug Vernimmen.
GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
A WORD FROM THE EDITOR

A word from the editor
Welcome to Issue 80
Welcome to the latest addition of      The Society has been continuing
the Genetics Society newsletter.       centenary preparations ahead
Since the last newsletter the          of 2019 (now finally here!) In
Society has hosted its annual          August we trialled our discovery
Autumn Meeting, this year at           garden at the Edinburgh
the University of Exeter on the        Festival, which we hope we
theme of “Genotype to Phenotype        will be taking to the Chelsea
to Fitness”. We also had the           Flower Show in May, and that
pleasure of co-sponsoring the          will be permanently installed
Royal Institution Christmas            at the Royal Botanic gardens,
Lectures, with our guest lecturer      Edinburgh, at the end of 2019 .
Aoife McLysaght co-hosting the         Photos from this can be found
lectures, entitled “Who Am I?”.        in the Features section of the
Aoife, who is already familiar         newsletter.
with the Royal Institute as the
winner of the Genetics Society         In this issue, I would like
2016 Haldane Lecture, added her        to draw your attention to
                                       an interview the Society           time. We also continue our
genetics expertise to Professor                                           Sectional Interest Group in
Alice Roberts, (University             commissioned looking at how
                                       scientific evidence was fed        the spotlight series, this issue
of Birmingham) biological                                                 focussing on the C. elegans
anthropology knowledge and             into the ethical debate which
                                       surrounded mitochondrial           meeting.
together they explore what makes
us human, and more directly,           donation (a technique often        I hope you enjoy this issue, and
what makes us who we are.              attributed the misnomer,           all of the reports on the various
                                       “three person babies”). Go to      research and meetings which we
The lectures are now available         the Features section of the        have been delighted to fund.
on BBC iPlayer (although make          newsletter to read the interview
sure you have a valid TV licence       with Dr Andy Greenfield, who       Best wishes,
before tuning in!).                    sat on the HEFA panel at the       Lynsey Hall

In this issue, I would like to draw your attention to an
interview the Society commissioned looking at how
scientific evidence was fed into the ethical debate which
surrounded mitochondrial donation (a technique often
attributed the misnomer, “three person babies”).

2 . GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS . ISSUE 80
GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
ISSUE 80 . January 2019

For more details please contact:
The Genetics Society
Charles Darwin House
12 Roger Street
London                                                                                                                CONTENTS
WC1N 2JU

Switchboard: +44 0203 793 7850
Email: theteam@genetics.org.uk
Web: www.genetics.org.uk
                                                                      Meeting Announcements                                          4
The Genetics Society Journals                                         Genetics Society Scientific Meetings
Heredity                                                              External Meetings Diary
www.nature.com/hd
Editor-in-Chief: Prof Barbara Mable                                   Sectional Interest Groups                                      7
Heredity Editorial Office, University of Glasgow,
Graham Kerr Building, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, Scotland                      Genetics Society Business                                      9
                                                                      Honorary Secretary’s Notices
Genes and Development
www.genesdev.org                                                      Features                                                      19
Editor: Dr Terri Grodzicker
                                                                      Mitochondrial donation: all things considered
Genes & Development, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press,
500 Sunnyside Boulevard, Woodbury, New York, 11797, USA                 - an interview with Andy Greenfield
                                                                      C. elegans - SIG in the spotlight
Committee members
                                                                      Genetics Society Centenary events
President
Prof Laurence D. Hurst, University of Bath                            Grant Reports                                                 25
                                                                      Junior Scientist Travel Reports
Vice-Presidents
                                                                      Heredity Fieldwork Grant Report
Corporate Affairs                                                     Training Grant Reports
Prof Malcolm Logan, King’s College London                             Public Engagement Grant Reports
External Relations
                                                                      G&D Summer Studentship Grant Reports
Prof Colum Walsh, University of Ulster
Public Understanding of Genetics                                      Grant Schemes                                                 44
Prof Alison Woollard, University of Oxford
                                                                      Contacting the Genetics Society                               51
Honorary Secretary
Dr Jonathan Pettitt, University of Aberdeen

Honorary Treasurer
Prof Martin Taylor, University of Edinburgh

Scientific Meetings Secretary
Dr Marika Charalambous, King’s College London

Newsletter Editor
Dr Lynsey Hall, Cardiff University

Website Editor
Dr Kay Boulton, The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh

Policy Officer
Prof Rebecca Oakey, King’s College London

Postgraduate Representative
Ms Helena Wells, Kings College London

Ordinary Committee Members
Gene Structure, function and regulation
Dr Aziz Aboobaker, University of Oxford
Dr Douglas Vernimmen, The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh
Genomics
Dr Michael Simpson, King’s College London
Dr Sudhakaran Prabakaran, University of Cambridge
Cell and Develomental Genetics
Prof Stefan Hoppler, University of Aberdeen
Applied and Quantitative Genetics
Dr Lindsey Leach, University of Birmingham
Dr Alastair Wilson, University of Exeter
Evolutionary, ecological and population genetics
Dr Frank Hailer, Cardiff University
Prof Jason Wolf, University of Bath
Corporate Genetics and Biotechnology
Dr Jim Huggett, University of Surrey and LGC Teddington
Dr Alison Bentley, The National Institute of Agricultural Botany

Design and Print
Collaborate Agency
www.collaborate.agency

                                                                                                                www.genetics.org.uk . 3
GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
A Genetics Society Workshop

Communicating Your Science
         24 - 26 April 2019, Chicheley Hall, Chicheley, Buckinghamshire

An important part of science is getting your          Speakers and Tutors include
results and ideas across to others, through           Enrico Coen
papers, presentations, theses, grant proposals,       (Author and Professor of Genetics,
conversations and interviews. Your audience may       John Innes Centre, Norwich)
include specialists in the field, those from other
disciplines, industry, or the general public.         Helen Keen
How can you best communicate your science?            (Multi-award winning writer and performer)
                                                      Alison Woollard
This workshop brings together experts in different    (2013 Royal Institution Christmas Lecturer and Professor of
fields - writers, broadcasters and presenters - to    Genetics, University of Oxford)
help you explore and develop your communication
skills. Working together with others on the course,
you will learn how to structure presentations,        Workshop Organiser
develop writing skills, bridge disciplines and have   Jonathan Pettitt
hands-on experience of creating media across a        (University of Aberdeen)
variety of platforms.

                            Application Deadline: 20 March 2019
 This workshop is open to PhD students and postdoctoral researchers working in genetics and related areas
   The Genetics Society will cover costs of travel, accommodation and meals for all successful applicants

www.genetics.org.uk/grants/comm-your-sci/
GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
GENETICS SOCIETY
                                            5                                  SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS

More detailed information and links to event websites can be found at
www.genetics.org.uk/events_categories/conferences/

BNA Festival of Neuroscience                              A Century of Genetics – Celebrating 100
Date: 14th - 17th April, 2019                             years of genetics in Edinburgh and the
Location: The Convention Centre Dublin, Dublin, Ireland   Genetics Society in the UK
Website: http://meetings.bna.org.uk/bna2019/              Date: 13th - 15th November 2019
Info: The first Festival (BNA2013, London) set the        Location: Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh
template for a completely novel forum, where other        Registration deadline: Further details to follow
organisations with an interest in brain research were     Abstract submissions:
invited to join the BNA to create a cross-disciplinary    7th January - 1st August, 2019
and celebratory neuroscience event, bringing together     Website:
fundamental research with clinical expertise and public   www.genetics.org.uk/events/100-years-genetics/
engagement as well. Subsequent Festivals (BNA2015
in Edinburgh; BNA2017 in Birmingham) confirmed the
success and popularity of this innovation; each one has
attracted 1150-1500 delegates.

                         REGISTER FOR MORE GENETIC SOCIETY EVENTS AT:

                         www.genetics.org.uk

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GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
EXTERNAL MEETINGS DIARY                                            6

More detailed information and links to event                Wellcome Advanced Courses and Scientific
websites can be found at                                    Conferences – Animal Genetics and Diseases
http://www.genetics.org.uk/events_categories/               Date: 8th - 10th May, 2019
external-meetings/                                          Location: Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton,
                                                            Cambridge
We will happily include any announcements for               Deadlines: 26th Feb (bursary), 12th March (abstract),
genetics-based meetings in this section. Please             9th April (registration)
send any items to theteam@genetics.org.uk                   Website: coursesandconferences.
                                                            wellcomegenomecampus.org/our-events/animal-
Spatial Genome Organization Conference                      genetics-diseases-2019/
Date: 25th - 28th February 2019                             Info: The second conference in this series will
Location: Melia Nassau Beach Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas         highlight recent advances in animal genetics
Website: www.fusion-conferences.com/registration88.php      and genomic technologies. It will bring together
Info: The conference will bring together scientists         specialists working on the interface of genomics,
interested in better characterizing the non-random          genetic engineering and infectious disease with the
organization of the genome while also revealing how         aims of improving animal and human health and
this organization is influenced by various cues or          welfare. This year’s conference will not only put the
disease conditions. Currently, these topics are typically   spotlight on the immune response of host animals
addressed in a small session of other conferences           and epidemiology but also cover the genetics and
however the field of spatial genome organization            genomics of pathogens and the impact of animal-
has grown substantially over the past two decades           human relationships.
warranting the creation of a dedicated and continuous
conference.

Wellcome Advanced Courses and Scientific
Conferences – Genomics of Rare Disease
Date: 27th - 29th March 2019
Location: Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton,
Cambridge
Deadlines: 15th January (bursary), 29th January
(abstract), 26th February (registration)
Website: coursesandconferences.
wellcomegenomecampus.org/our-events/genomics-rare-
disease-2019/
Info: Genomics of Rare Disease will present an exciting
blend of genomic science and clinical medicine.
This meeting will explore how cutting-edge genomic
research translates into clinical care and informs
our understanding of the biology of rare disease. The
programme features the latest findings related to the
genomic basis of rare diseases, providing powerful
insights into human biology, disease mechanisms and
therapeutic approaches. As genomic sequencing becomes
more available in the hospital setting, we also examine
the opportunities and challenges for clinical practice.

6 . GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS . ISSUE 80
GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
7                     SECTIONAL INTEREST GROUPS

The Genetics Society helps support several sectional         Genetics Society Pombe Club
interest groups by providing meeting sponsorship.            Next meeting: Details to follow
We currently have 14 groups who organise sectional           Organiser: Jacqueline Hayles
                                                             (jacqueline.hayles@crick.ac.uk)
interest meetings with the organizers and dates of
                                                             Website: genetics.org.uk/events/genetics-society-
any forthcoming meetings are listed below. If you are        pombe-club/
interested in any of these areas, please contact the
relevant organiser. This information is also available at:   London Fly meetings
                                                             Next meeting: 3rd Wednesday of the month (Francis
www.genetics.org.uk/events_categories/                       Crick Institute, Lincoln’s Inn Fields laboratory, London)
sectional-interest-groups/                                   Organisers: Nic Tapon (nic.tapon@crick.ac.uk) and
Groups who wish to be considered for sectional               Barry Thompson (barry.thompson@crick.ac.uk)
                                                             Website: lists.londonflymeeting.org/listinfo/lfm
interest group status should contact Scientific
Meetings Secretary, Dr Marika Charalambous (Marika.          Mammalian Genes, Development and Disease
charalambous@kcl.ac.uk) in the first instance.               Next meeting: 5th July 2019, Milner Centre, Bath
                                                             University
Archaea Group                                                Organisers: Rosalind John (johnrm@Cardiff.ac.uk),
Next meeting: Details to follow                              Karin Malik (k.t.a.malik@bristol.ac.uk), Keith Vance
Organiser: Thorsten Allers                                   (k.w.vance@bath.ac.uk), David Allard (d.allard@
(thorsten.allers@nottingham.ac.uk)                           exeter.ac.uk)
Website: abdn.ac.uk/events/conferences/archaeal-             Website: genetics.org.uk/events/mammalian-genes-
workshop-2019-818.php                                        development-and-disease/

British Yeast Group                                          Mammalian Genetics and Development
Next meeting: 26th-28th June 2019, County Hotel,             Next meeting: Details to follow
Newcastle upon Tyne                                          Organisers: Nick Greene (n.greene@ucl.ac.uk),
Organisers: Janet Quinn (janet.quinn@newcastle.ac.uk),       Andrew Copp (a.copp@ucl.ac.uk), Cynthia Andoniadou
Simon Whitehall (simon.whitehall@newcastle.ac.uk),           (cynthia.andoniadou@kcl.ac.uk)
Julian Rutherford (julian.rutherford@newcastle.ac.uk)        Website: ucl.ac.uk/ich/research/developmental-
Website: microbiologysociety.org/event/society-events-       biology-cancer/DBCmeetings/MGDW/mgw_workshop
and-meetings/byg-discovery-to-impact.html                    Meiosis group
C. elegans                                                   Next meeting: 17th-18th April 2019, University of
Next meeting: 16th Sept 2019, South Kensington Campus,       Aberystwyth
Imperial College London                                      Organiser: Dylan Phillips (dwp@aber.ac.uk)
Organiser: Michalis Barkoulas                                Website: www.genetics.org.uk/events/meiosis-group/
(m.barkoulas@imperial.ac.uk)                                 Population Genetics Group
Website: genetics.org.uk/events/c-elegans/                   Next meeting: January 2020, University of Leicester
e-ACTG (Edinburgh Alliance for Complex Trait                 (further details to follow)
Genetics)                                                    Organiser: Robert Hammond (rh225@le.ac.uk)
Next meeting: Spring 2019 (date tbc), Royal Society of       Website: populationgeneticsgroup.org.uk/
Edinburgh, Edinburgh                                         South-West Fly
Organisers: Chris Haley (chris.haley@roslin.ed.ac.uk) and    Next meeting: 30th Jan 2019, 8th May 2019, University
Josephine Pemberton (j.pemberton@ed.ac.uk)                   of Bristol
Website: www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/eactg/Edinburgh+          Organiser: James Hodge (James.Hodge@bristol.ac.uk)
Alliance+for+Complex+Trait+Genetics                          Website: www.bristol.ac.uk/phys-pharm-neuro/
The Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics Symposium             events/fly-meetings/
(EGGS)                                                       UK Cilia Network
Next meeting: 19th March 2019, Cambridge                     Next meeting: 22nd March 2019, The Circle, Sheffield
Organiser: Frank Jiggins (fmj1001@cam.ac.uk)                 Organisers: Colin Bingle (c.d.bingle@sheffield.ac.uk),
Website: evolutionarygenetics.heliconius.org/eggs/           Gwen Reilly (g.reilly@sheffield.ac.uk)
Genomic Arabidopsis Resource Network (GARNet)                Website: www.cilianetwork.org.uk
Next meeting: Details to follow
Organiser: Geraint Parry
(geraint@garnetcommunity.org.uk)
Website: garnetcommunity.org.uk

                                                                                                   www.genetics.org.uk . 7
GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
Special Issue: Evolutionary Consequences of Epigenetic
                                 Inheritance (based on 2017 ESEB symposium)
                                 Epigenetic inheritance is the non-genetic inheritance of a modified
                                 phenotype across generations, and while its occurrence is well
                                 documented, its influence over evolutionary processes is debated.
                                 This special issue deals with the evolutionary consequences of
                                 epigenetic inheritance and focuses broadly on the evolutionary
                                 forces selecting for epigenetic inheritance, its costs and importance
                                 for adaptation. Moreover, several contributions specifically highlight
                                 the effects of paternal trans-generational epigenetic inheritance,
                                 which until now have received comparatively little attention. The
Coming: Fitness                  contributions to this special issue give an important snapshot of the
landscapes, big data and         state of the adaptive epigenetic inheritance field, highlight its
the predictability of            evolutionary consequences and point out important directions
evolu8on (ESEB                   forward.
symposium 2017)
Guest Editors: Inês Fragata, Guest Editors: Foteini Spagopoulou and Martin Lind, Department of
                             Ecology and Genetics, Animal Ecology, Uppsala University, Sweden
Sebas8an Matuszewski
                                                          Heredity Volume 121, pages 205–209 (2018)
                                                          FREE ACCESS August 17-31

Introducing Genetics Unzipped – the new Genetics Society podcast

We’re very pleased to announce the launch of our            The next episode will explore the deadly DNA that
new fortnightly podcast, Genetics Unzipped, bringing        causes Huntington’s disease, discover the science
you a wide range of stories from the world of               behind spider-goats, and take a look at the special
genetics, genomics and DNA.                                 place that viruses hold in the history of genetic
                                                            research.
Presented by former Naked Genetics host Kat Arney
and produced by First Create The Media, listeners can       Find Genetics Unzipped online at geneticsunzipped.
expect to hear interviews with experts from around          com, or subscribe for free through Apple Podcasts,
the world, all the latest news, and a special centenary     Stitcher, Spotify and all good podcast apps. You can
series celebrating 100 ideas in genetics.                   email podcast@geneticsunzipped.com with feedback
                                                            and suggestions for future topics or guests. And
The series starts with a behind-the-scenes peek at the      finally, please do take a moment to rate and review
iconic 2018 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on         the show to help raise awareness.
the theme ‘Who am I?’, presented by Professors Alice
Roberts and Aoife McLysaght, in partnership with the
Genetics Society.

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GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
9                       GENETICS SOCIETY BUSINESS

Honorary Secretary’s Notices
Jonathan Petitt . Honorary Secretary, University of Aberdeen

Current and Upcoming Medal and Prize Lecture Announcements
Committee Vacancies
                                          2019 Mendel Medal –
T   he following posts will fall vacant
    on 1st May 2020, and we seek
replacements who will begin their
                                          Professor William G. Hill
                                                                                  Edinburgh to undertake a PhD
terms in 2019 (1st May 2019 for the                                               in quantitative and population
Honorary Treasurer and Newsletter                                                 genetics with Alan Robertson.
Editor; 1st November 2019 for the                                                 Apart from occasional periods
Postgraduate Representative),                                                     abroad to work with his many
shadowing the current incumbents:                                                 collaborators, he has stayed in
Honorary Treasurer                                                                Edinburgh since, building on the
to replace Martin Taylor                                                          historical strength in quantitative
                                                                                  genetics developed by Douglas
Newsletter Editor                                                                 Falconer, Alan Robertson and
to replace Lynsey Hall
                                                                                  others.
Postgraduate Representative
                                                                                  Bill’s research is primarily
to replace Helena Wells
                                                                                  theoretical, using mathematical
The following committee posts will be                                             and computer models of the
falling vacant as of 1st May 2019:                                                behaviour of genes in populations
Ordinary Committee member                                                         to understand the genetic
                                                                                  basis of quantitatively varying
(Gene Structure, Function and
Regulation)
to replace Doug Vernimmen
                                          T   he Genetics Society is
                                              delighted to announce
                                          that Professor William G. Hill,
                                                                                  traits. His contributions have
                                                                                  included studies of how genetic
                                          University of Edinburgh, has            variation is maintained in natural
Ordinary Committee member                                                         populations, and how selection
                                          accepted the 2019 Mendel Medal,
(Genomics)                                                                        (both natural and artificial)
                                          awarded by president, Professor
to replace Michael Simpson                                                        changes the structure of genetic
                                          Laurence Hurst.
Ordinary Committee member                                                         variation. He has made numerous
(Corporate Genetics and                   Bill Hill is one of the world’s         very influential advances in our
Biotechnology)                            leading quantitative geneticists,       understanding of the effects
to replace Jim Huggett                    with a distinguished research           of finite population size and
                                          career spanning 40 years, focused       mutation on variability and
We have extended the nomination           on the variability in complex           selection responses, notably the
deadline for these posts: Friday 28th     traits arising from the joint effects   role of mutation in maintaining
December 2019.                            of genetic and environmental            continued responses to selection.
Any member in good standing is            factors. Raised on a Hertfordshire      In addition to his purely scientific
eligible to submit nominations            farm (that the family still owns),      work, he has made many
for these posts (including self-          Bill came into genetics via an          important contributions to the
nominations). Nominations should be       interest in livestock improvement.      application of genetics to animal
sent to Jonathan Pettitt                  After studying Agriculture at Wye       improvement, which have had
(j.pettitt@abdn.ac.uk).                   College London and Genetics at          a major impact on the livestock
                                          UC Davis, Bill moved to                 breeding industry. He is a sought-

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GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS - JANUARY 2019 | ISSUE 80
GENETICS SOCIETY BUSINESS

                                                                 10

after consultant by both public       acting at a locus interferes with    Engineering at the University
agencies and private businesses in    that happening simultaneously        of Edinburgh until his official
this area.                            at linked loci. The Hill-Robertson   retirement in 2002. He continues
                                      effect has become one of the most    to be highly active in the fields of
Of especial importance has            influential ideas in population      quantitative genetics and animal
been his work on linkage              genetics, finding a new lease        breeding and has inspired many
disequilibrium, the non-random        of life in its ability to explain    generations of scientists through
associations between genetic          patterns of molecular evolution      his teaching and supervision.
variants at different sites in the    and diversity revealed by the
genome. Such associations now         genomic revolution. Within           He was elected to the Royal
provide an immensely important        recent years, his work has helped    Society of Edinburgh in 1979, the
tool for geneticists seeking to map   to shape our understanding of        Royal Society of London in 1985
and identify genes involved in        what genome-scale data sets can      and appointed OBE in 2004, in
disease and other complex traits,     tell us about complex traits and     part for his contribution to the
and Bill’s work provided a basic      relatedness within populations.      UK animal breeding industry. Bill
framework for modelling and                                                has been an honorary member
analysing linkage disequilibrium,     Bill has served with distinction     of the Genetics Society for many
which he went on to apply to          in several important academic        years, and fittingly, will present
genetic mapping. As a PhD             administrative posts, culminating    his lecture at the “A Century of
student with Alan Robertson,          in the position of Dean of           Genetics” conference to be held
Bill demonstrated how selection       the Faculty of Science and           November 2019, Edinburgh.

2019 Genetics Society –
Professor Deborah Charlesworth
T   he Genetics Society is
    delighted to announce that
Professor Deborah Charlesworth,
                                      of Chicago in 1998, moving
                                      to Edinburgh as a Research
                                      Professor in 1997, to work on the
University of Edinburgh, has          evolution of plant mating systems
accepted the 2019 Genetics Society    and plant sex chromosomes.
Medal.                                She is a Fellow of the Royal
                                      Society. She was the president
Deborah Charlesworth is a Senior      of the Society for Molecular
Honorary Professorial Fellow          Biology and Evolution in 2007,
in the Institute of Evolutionary      and of the European Society for
Biology in the School of              Evolutionary Biology in 2001, and
Biological Sciences at the            received the Molecular Ecology
University of Edinburgh. After        Prize in 2011. She currently
a PhD in genetics at Cambridge        works on the evolution of sex
in 1968, she did postdoctoral         chromosomes in a fish, the guppy.
research in human genetics at         She has published over 200 papers
the Universities of Cambridge         and co-authored three books (two
and Chicago. She then started         with Brian Charlesworth).
working on evolutionary genetics
with Brian Charlesworth at the        Deborah will present her lecture
Universities of Liverpool and         at the Genetics Society centenary
Sussex and was appointed to a         scientific meeting, “A Century of
faculty position at the University    Genetics” in Edinburgh, 2019.

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                                         11

2019 Mary Lyon Medal – Professor Oliver Pybus
                                      University of Oxford, and             Training Fellowship in Biodiversity,
                                      Professorial Fellow of New College,   a Royal Society University
                                      Oxford. His work focuses on           Research Fellowship, and an
                                      the evolutionary and ecological       ERC Consolidator Award. He was
                                      dynamics of infectious disease,       previously Tutor for Biological
                                      and on the development of             Sciences at New College, Oxford.
                                      phylodynamic analysis methods.
                                                                            Oliver was awarded the Scientific
                                      An interest in biology and            Medal of the Zoological Society
                                      computing at school led him to        of London in 2009 and the Daiwa
                                      study Genetics at the University      Adrian Prize in 2010. He is the
                                      of Nottingham, which included a       founding editor of the journal
T   he Genetics Society is pleased
    to announce that Professor
Oliver Pybus, University of Oxford,
                                      research project with Bryan Clarke.
                                      Following a Masters degree, he
                                                                            Virus Evolution, and is co-
                                                                            Director of the Oxford Martin
has accepted the 2019 Mary Lyon       undertook a DPhil in evolutionary     School Programme on Pandemic
Medal.                                biology at the University of          Genomics.
                                      Oxford supervised by Paul Harvey.
Oliver Pybus is Professor of          He has continued his work on          Oliver will present his lecture at the
Evolution & Infectious Disease        phylodynamics with the support        Genetics Society 2109 meeting “A
at the Department of Zoology,         of a Wellcome Trust Research          Century of Genetics” in Edinburgh.

2019 Balfour Lecture – Dr Susan Johnston
                                      her PhD in evolutionary genetics      sheep, deer and house sparrows.
                                      at the University of Sheffield
                                      with Prof Jon Slate, before taking    Her current work investigates
                                      up postdoctoral positions at the      the causes and consequences
                                      University of Turku, Finland          of recombination rate variation
                                      with Prof Craig Primmer and the       within and between chromosomes,
                                      University of Edinburgh with Prof     individuals, sexes, populations
                                      Josephine Pemberton. She started      and species, to understand why
                                      her current position as a Research    recombination is so pervasive yet
                                      Fellow in October 2016.               variable and how it is evolving
                                                                            across a wide range of taxa. Her
                                      Her PhD and postdoctoral research     group also investigates the role

T   he Genetics Society is pleased
    to announce Dr Susan
Johnston, University of Edinburgh,
                                      focussed on understanding why
                                      genetic variation is maintained
                                                                            of sexual selection and indirect
                                                                            genetic effects, such as maternal
                                      in traits under sexual selection,     effects, on trait evolution. She is
as the 2019 Balfour Lecturer.         investigating genetic architecture    keen to promote and encourage
Susan Johnston is a Royal Society     and fitness trade-offs in sexual      women and under-represented
University Research Fellow at the     weaponry in Soay sheep and age        minorities into scientific careers,
Institute of Evolutionary Biology     at maturity in Atlantic salmon.       and has a young child born in 2018.
at the University of Edinburgh. Her   She then shifted her research
                                      to investigating the genetic          Susan will present the 2019 Balfour
research integrates quantitative                                            Lecture at the Genetics Society 2109
genetics with genomics to             architecture and evolution of
                                      individual recombination rate         meeting “A Century of Genetics”,
understand evolutionary trade-                                              to be held in Edinburgh.
offs in wild populations. She did     variation in wild populations of

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GENETICS SOCIETY BUSINESS

                                                                  12

Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize –
Rosina Savisaar
C   ongratulations to Rosina
    Savisaar, who was the
recipient of the 2017/2018 Sir
                                      I am interested in how the
                                      mechanistic details of gene
                                      expression constrain sequence
                                                                             In my thesis work, I studied
                                                                             patterns of selection on such
                                                                             regulatory motifs in human
Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize.        evolution. For example, correct        coding sequences. Most
                                      splicing requires the binding of       importantly, I found that selection
“I am very happy and grateful         splicing factors to regulatory         to preserve splice promoting
to have been awarded the Sir          motifs in the mRNA transcript.         motifs is not only widespread
Kenneth Mather memorial               These motifs often occur inside        (roughly one in five fourfold
prize. I am also very thankful to     coding regions.                        degenerate sites are constrained)
Prof Laurence D. Hurst for the                                               but also strong.
nomination and for his excellent      This leads to a fascinating
supervision during my PhD at          situation where certain parts          Hence, contrary to the received
the University of Bath. I have        of the coding sequence have to         wisdom, human synonymous
now finished my thesis and            do two jobs at once: specify the       sites are frequently under strong
am working at Nile University         amino acid sequence in that            negative selection. The need to
in Giza, Egypt, where I teach         region of the protein but also         ensure correct splicing is thus an
bioinformatics. I try to sneak        maintain the binding motif for         important determinant of how
in some (population) genetics         the splicing factor.                   our coding regions evolve.”
whenever I can.

Medal Nominations
Genetics Society Medal                                                       Call for Nominations
                                                                             Nominations are now being invited
                                                                             for the 2018 Genetics Society Medal.

T   he Genetics Society Medal
    is an award that recognises
outstanding research contributions
                                                                             To make a nomination, please
                                                                             confirm that your candidate is willing
                                                                             to be nominated, then forward
to genetics. The Medal recipient,                                            a two-page CV of the candidate,
who should still be active in                                                together with a list of their ten
research at the time the Medal is                                            most important publications, plus a
awarded, will be elected annually                                            one-page letter of recommendation
by the Committee on the basis                                                outlining why you feel their
of nominations made by any                                                   contributions to the field have been
individual member of the Society.                                            outstanding.
Those making nominations must         have retired from office in the past
be members of the Genetics Society,   four years may be nominated for        These documents must be submitted
but there is no requirement for       the award. The recipient will be       electronically to the Honorary
the nominee to be a member, nor       invited to deliver a lecture at a      Secretary of the Genetics Society,
any restriction on nationality or     Genetics Society meeting, where the    Jonathan Pettitt, by 29th April, 2019
residence. Neither current members    medal will be awarded, in the year     at: j.pettitt@abdn.ac.uk.
of the Committee nor those who        following his/her election.

12 . GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS . ISSUE 80
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                                           13

                                                                            Call for Nominations
Mary Lyon Medal                                                             Nominations are now being invited
                                                                            for the 2018 Mary Lyon Medal. To
This award, named after the                                                 make a nomination, please confirm
distinguished geneticist Mary                                               that your candidate is willing to be
Lyon FRS, was established in 2015                                           nominated, then forward a two-page
to reward outstanding research in                                           CV of the candidate, together with
genetics to scientists who are in the                                       a list of their ten most important
middle of their research career.                                            publications, plus a one-page letter of
                                                                            recommendation outlining why you
The Mary Lyon medal will be                                                 feel their contributions to the field
awarded annually, and the winner                                            have been outstanding.
will be invited to present a lecture
at one of the Genetics Society                                              These documents must be submitted
scientific meetings.                                                        electronically to the Honorary
                                                                            Secretary of the Genetics Society,
                                                                            Jonathan Pettitt, by 29th April, 2019
                                                                            at: j.pettitt@abdn.ac.uk.

Balfour Lecture                                                             Call for Nominations
                                                                            Nominations are now being invited
                                                                            for the 2018 Balfour Lecture. To

T    he Balfour Lecture, named
     after the Genetics Society’s
first President, is an award to mark
                                        Those making nominations
                                        must be members of the
                                        Genetics Society, but there is no
                                                                            make a nomination, please confirm
                                                                            that your candidate is willing to be
                                                                            nominated, then forward a two-page
the contributions to genetics of an     requirement for the nominee to      CV of the candidate, together with
outstanding young investigator. The     be a member, nor is there any       a list of their ten most important
Balfour Lecturer is elected by the      restriction on nationality or       publications, plus a one-page letter of
Society’s Committee on the basis of     residence.                          recommendation outlining why you
nominations made by any individual                                          feel their contributions to the field
member of the Society.                                                      have been outstanding.
The only conditions are that                                                These documents must be submitted
the recipient of the award must                                             electronically to the Honorary
normally have less than 10 years’                                           Secretary of the Genetics Society,
postdoctoral research experience at                                         Jonathan Pettitt, by 29th April, 2019
the time of nomination, and that any                                        at: j.pettitt@abdn.ac.uk.
nomination must be made with the
consent of the nominee.

                                                                                           www.genetics.org.uk . 13
GENETICS SOCIETY BUSINESS

                                                                      14

Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize
T    he Sir Kenneth Mather
     Memorial Prize of £150
rewards a BSc, MSc or PhD
                                          The prize is awarded annually
                                          and pertains to a project report,
                                          dissertation or thesis submitted
                                                                              Call for Nominations
                                                                              Nominations for the 2018/19 award
student of any UK University              during the academic year in         should be submitted to The Genetics
or Research Institution who has           question. The winner will be        Society electronically via the
shown outstanding performance             invited to present their work,      website, before November 26th, 2019.
in the area of quantitative or            usually the at a Genetics Society
population genetics.                      sponsored “Pop Group” meeting.      To be eligible for nomination, as a
                                                                              condition of their course, theses/
                                                                              dissertations/project reports are
                                                                              required to be submitted by the
                                                                              student to the nominating University
                                                                              or Institution between 1st September
                                                                              2018 and 31st August 2019.

Life Membership in
the Genetics Society

T   he Genetics Society is keen to support
    members and those willing to continue to
contribute to the field of Genetics once retired.

Have you reached the age of retirement (65),
but wish to continue with your involvement
in the Society? If so, and you are a full,
current member of the Genetics Society, then
you are eligible to become a Life Member.
Life members remain eligible to vote in the
Society’s AGM and continue to receive Society
notices, but will not be required to pay further
subscriptions.

Recipients of the Mendel Medal and the
Genetics Society Medal will also be offered
Life Membership. If you would like to continue
your contribution and links with the Society,
please contact The Genetics Society Office
(theteam@genetics.org.uk).

14 . GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS . ISSUE 80
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                                       15

Local Ambassadors
The Local Ambassadors act as key liaisons between the membership and the Society’s Office and
Committee, helping to recruit new members, publicising the Society’s scientific meetings and other
activities, and providing feedback from the membership on matters of professional concern.

                                                                          As an ambassador you will receive
                                                                          lots of support from the Genetics
                                                                          Society, including supplies of
                                                                          promotional materials and loan of
                                                                          pop-up banners.
                                                                          The Society normally appoints
                                                                          only one local ambassador
                                                                          per company, institution or
                                                                          department, but exceptions
                                                                          can be made when there are
                                                                          semi-autonomous sub-divisions
                                                                          containing a substantial number
                                                                          of members or potential members.
                                                                          We are currently actively
                                                                          seeking Ambassadors for Ascot
                                                                          and Silwood (Imperial College
                                                                          London), Cambridge University’s
                                                                          Genetics Department, and Royal
                                                                          Botanic Garden (Kew, London).

                                                                          If you would like to become a
                                                                          Genetics Society Ambassador,
The tasks of the Genetics Society   • attending ad hoc national,          or if existing Ambassadors wish
Ambassador are not onerous and        travel expenses paid, “get          to update their contact details,
include:                              togethers” to meet the              please contact the Honorary
                                      committee and network with          Secretary, Jonathan Pettitt, by
Recruiting new members by:            other local ambassadors             e-mail at j.pettitt@abdn.ac.uk.
• targeting new student intakes     • providing feedback from the
• alerting your department/           membership about Genetics
  institution/university to           Society activities
  deadlines for grants available    • helping organise local events
  to researchers                      such as socials etc
Promoting the society by:           • assisting the Membership
• publicise Genetics Society          Secretary in keeping an
  meetings and other events (e.g.     accurate log of which members
  putting up posters or by word       have moved on and to where
  of mouth)
• manning stands at relevant
  local events

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GENETICS SOCIETY BUSINESS

                                                          16

Local ambassador                Location      Institute
Professor Anne Donaldson        Aberdeen      University of Aberdeen
Dr Dylan Wyn                    Aberystwyth   Aberystwyth University
VACANT                          Ascot         Imperial College London (Ascot and Silwood)
Dr Alexander Papadopulos        Bangor        University of Bangor
Dr Araxi Urrutia                Bath          University of Bath
Dr Declan McKenna               Belfast       University of Ulster, Belfast
Dr Lindsey Leach                Birmingham    University of Birmingham
Dr Charlotte Rutledge           Birmingham    University of Birmingham
Dr Felicity Z Watts             Brighton      University of Sussex
Professor Patricia Kuwabara     Bristol       University of Bristol (SOMs)
Dr Howard Baylis                Cambridge     University of Cambridge (Dept of Zoology)
Dr Ian Henderson                Cambridge     University of Cambridge (Dept of Plant Sciences)
Dr Bénédicte Sanson             Cambridge     University of Cambridge (Dept Phys, Dev, Neuro)
VACANT                          Cambridge     Sainsbury Laboratory
Dr Simon Harvey                 Canterbury    Canterbury Christ Church University
Dr Timothy Bowen                Cardiff       University of Wales College of Medicine
Dr William Davies               Cardiff       Cardiff University
Dr Jose Gutierrez-Marcos        Coventry      University of Warwick
VACANT                          Dublin        University of Dublin
Professor Michael JR Stark      Dundee        University of Dundee
Professor Ian Jackson           Edinburgh     MRC Human Genetics Unit, Edinburgh
Dr Doug Vernimmen               Edinburgh     Roslin Institute, Edinburgh
Dr Antonio Marco                Essex         University of Essex
Dr Sarah Flanagan               Exeter        University of Exeter
Dr Ben Longdon                  Exeter        University of Exeter
Dr Iain Johnstone               Glasgow       University of Glasgow
Dr Kevin O'Dell                 Glasgow       University of Glasgow
Dr Fiona Green                  Guildford     University of Surrey
Dr Paul Potter                  Harwell       MRC Harwell
Dr Cristina Ariani              Hinxton       Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Dr David Lunt                   Hull          University of Hull
Professor Michael F Tuite       Kent          University of Kent
Dr Andrew Peel                  Leeds         University of Leeds, School of Biology
Dr Ed Hollox                    Leicester     University of Leicester
Dr Peter Glen Walley            Liverpool     University of Liverpool
Dr Craig Wilding                Liverpool     Liverpool John Moores University
Dr Michalis Barkoulas           London        Imperial College London (South Kensington)
Alex Blakemore                  London        Imperial College London (Hammersmith)
Professor E M C Fisher          London        UCL Institute of Neurology
Professor Simon Hughes          London        King's College London
Dr Yalda Jamshidi               London        St George's Hospital Medical School
Dr Francesca Mackenzie          London        UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Professor Richard A Nichols     London        Queen Mary and Westfield College
Professor Andrew Pomiankowski   London        UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment
Dr Claire Russell               London        Royal Veterinary College
Prof. Harald Schneider          London        The Natural History Museum
Dr James Turner                 London        Crick Institute
Dr Emanuela Volpi               London        University of Westminster
VACANT                          London        Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Miss Rebecca Collier            Manchester    University of Manchester
Dr Catherine Walton             Manchester    University of Manchester
Dr Kirsten Wolff                Newcastle     University of Newcastle
Dr Tracey Chapman               Norwich       University of East Anglia
Professor Enrico Coen           Norwich       John Innes Institute
Professor John Brookfield       Nottingham    University of Nottingham (University Park Campus)
Dr Richard Emes                 Nottingham    University of Nottingham (Sutton Bonnington Campus)
Dr Paul Ashton                  Ormskirk      Edge Hill University
Professor Liam Dolan            Oxford        University of Oxford (Plant Sciences)
Professor Jonathan Hodgkin      Oxford        University of Oxford (Biochemistry)
Dr Ravinder Kanda               Oxford        Oxford Brookes University
Professor Andrew O M Wilkie     Oxford        University of Oxford (John Radcliffe Hosp)
Dr Mairi Knight                 Plymouth      University of Plymouth
Dr Louise Johnson               Reading       University of Reading
Dr Jon Slate                    Sheffield     University of Sheffield
Dr Mark Chapman                 Southampton   University of Southampton
Professor Mike Ritchie          St Andrews    University of St Andrews
Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin          Stirling      University of Stirling
Dr Lewis Bingle                 Sunderland    University of Sunderland
Dr Claire Morgan                Swansea       Swansea University
Dr Sean T. Sweeney              York          University of York
Dr Mark Chapman                 Southampton   University of Southampton
Prof. Mike Ritchie              St Andrews    University of St Andrews
Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin          Stirling      University of Stirling
Dr Lewis Bingle                 Sunderland    University of Sunderland
Dr Claire Morgan                Swansea       Swansea University
Dr Sean Sweeney                 York          University of York
17                                                 OBITUARIES

Jeff Gale

I t is with sadness we learnt
  of the death of population
geneticist Jeff Gale at the age of
                                     Jeffery Samuel Gale was born in
                                     Stamford Hill, in London, in 1929,
                                     to Blossom and Joseph Galinski
                                                                          of Junctions under RA Fisher.
                                                                          He was the last PhD student
                                                                          Fisher formally supervised. By
89 after a long illness. Fourteen    but his surname was changed to       all accounts he and Fisher got
years ago, he succumbed to           Gale in 1945. Jeff graduated in      on well. Jeff told how he was
vascular dementia, and over          Natural Sciences at Cambridge        once trying to impress a girl by
the years his wonderful mind         in 1956 with first class honours     showing her around the genetics
gradually failed him.                after which he studied the Theory    department mouse laboratory

A common but individually private memory for many of us who
remember Jeff is his chain smoking of untipped Gauloises in his office
while patiently deriving and explaining statistical and genetics theory
from first principles.

                                                                                        www.genetics.org.uk . 17
OBITUARIES

                                                                  18

when he was disturbed by             Jeff’s principal academic legacy       his office while patiently deriving
Fisher. The girl knew of Fisher’s    is his two books on population         and explaining statistical and
reputation but no genetics.          genetics, both still available.        genetics theory from first
Fisher threw Jeff some easy          The first, “Population Genetics”       principles. He would write proofs
questions and feigned impression     is an undergraduate text. The          down in a neat rounded hand
at the profundity of the answers.    second, “Theoretical Population        in blue ink. If he thought there
Whether this helped Jeff’s cause     Genetics”, is a weightier and          were too many crossings-out, he
is unknown but illustrates their     more advanced text. Reading both       would then write out a fair copy.
relationship.                        books brings back memories of          These have been preserved and
                                     Jeff; in addition to the subject       treasured by several grateful
Jeff subsequently devoted much       matter they show his erudition         recipients.
of his life to explaining Fisher’s   and breadth of knowledge across
work to the uninitiated.             the spectrum of both science and       Anyone who met Jeff realised
                                     arts. The books are peppered with      he was a madly brilliant and
Following Cambridge, Jeff held                                              brilliantly mad polymath. Words,
a position for three years in        quotations and jokes. Written
                                     in a pre-internet age, one knows       both written and spoken, along
Glasgow Genetics Department,                                                with mathematics, were at the
headed by Guido Pontecorvo. The      that Jeff had memorised these
                                     from his reading or had been able      very heart of his character
bulk of Jeff’s academic career                                              and Jeff had a sparkling
however, between 1961 and 1989,      to look them up in his extensive
                                     home library. An example               mind. There are too many
was at Birmingham, first in the                                             anecdotes surrounding his time
ARC Unit of Biometrical Genetics     in “Theoretical Populations
                                     Genetics” is a discussion of a         in Birmingham to give here.
then in the Genetics Department,                                            He once recited all the Roman
initially with Kenneth Mather        cricketer who complains that
                                     the groundsman failed to take          Emperors in chronological order
as head of department, followed                                             in response to a challenge from
by John Jinks. Jeff flourished       into account the curvature of the
                                     earth in rolling the pitch, given in   Jinks. He could quote poetry
at Birmingham, with his own                                                 and recite lewd songs in Latin.
experimental work in the             the context of justifying the use
                                     of simple models.                      He seemed to know something
ecological and population                                                   about everything. His death
genetics of Papaver dubium           Another is an introductory             represents the end of an era in
and wider interests and              parable on selection and drift by      which universities could accept
research in quantitative and         considering the fate of a drunk        brilliant eccentrics for what they
population genetics. He will be      leaving a bar and staggering           gave to students and colleagues
best remembered however, as a        towards home or a pond with            in intellectual challenge and
teacher; to a modest number of       varying probabilities and              tutorage.
his own PhD students and to a        distances between bar and final
much larger number of students,      destinations.                          Thank you to Professor Ian
post docs, other colleagues and                                             Mackay (University of Edinburgh)
members of staff. All benefited      A common but individually              for contributing this obituary.
from his patience, sense of          private memory for many of us
humour, and lucid exposition of      who remember Jeff is his chain
statistical and genetics theory.     smoking of untipped Gauloises in

His death represents the end of an era in which universities could accept
brilliant eccentrics for what they gave to students and colleagues in
intellectual challenge and tutorage.

18 . GENETICS SOCIETY NEWS . ISSUE 80
19                                                         FEATURES

In this edition of the Newsletter, we have three feature pieces. The first feature looks at how scientific evidence was
fed into the ethical debate which surrounded mitochondrial donation (a technique often attributed the misnomer,
“three person babies”). We commissioned Kat Arney to interview Dr Andy Greenfield, who sat on the HEFA panel
at the time, to gain his insight on the process. The second feature is part of an extended series designed to promote
each of our Sectional Interest Groups in turn, to provide our membership with a more detailed overview of what
these meetings are like, and encourage attendance. This issue is focussing on the C. elegans group. In our third and
final feature, we highlights some of the events that are part of the centenary programme spanning 2018 and 2019.

Mitochondrial Donation: All Things Considered
‘Just because we can, doesn’t             Kat: Tell me about the expert           embryology, mitochondrial biology,
mean that we should’ is a phrase          panel – who was involved and what       molecular biology, evolutionary
that’s often used when considering        challenges did you face as you          biology and genetics across multiple
controversial new reproductive            considered the evidence around          species. And although we were all
technologies such as mitochondrial        mitochondrial donation?                 scientific experts on the panel,
donation – a new technique that aims      Andy: We recruited a number of          I had to present our findings to the
to allow women whose eggs contain         people with a professional interest     HFEA board, which is drawn from
defective mitochondria to conceive        in the topic, including scientists      a broader range of backgrounds.
a genetically related child free of       and clinicians. It was a real team      It was challenging to present
serious disease.                          effort. Our evidence came from a        complex scientific information in
In the UK, research and treatments        wide range of sources – written         an accessible and impartial way
using human embryos are regulated         points of view, published data and      without losing significant details
by the Human Fertilisation and            manuscripts in press, interviews        or imposing my own personal
Embryology Authority (HFEA). In           and more.                               interpretation and values on it.
2016, the HFEA recommended that           We interviewed scientists               What were the key issues that came
mitochondrial donation ‘can be            throughout the world who were           up?
used cautiously for risk reduction        actively researching the techniques
treatments in certain cases where                                                 We were tasked with looking at
                                          and considered evidence from            whether mitochondrial donation
alternative treatments would be of        representatives of funding agencies,
little or no benefit to mothers at risk                                           techniques were safe and effective.
                                          professional bodies and patient         Obviously, that’s very hard to do
of passing mitochondrial disease          representatives [www.hfea.gov.
onto their children’, based on the                                                for a technique that has never been
                                          uk/media/2611/fourth_scientific_        tried in humans in the clinic, so we
cumulative findings of four expert        review_mitochondria_2016.pdf].
scientific panels convened over                                                   had to consider all the preclinical
several years to assess the safety and    It was tough because we were            research that had been done
efficacy of the techniques.               dealing with issues across many         and weigh up the risks against
                                          scientific fields and disciplines,      potential benefits. Even though
Two of these panels were chaired by       straddling developmental biology,       we were focused on the scientific
Dr Andy Greenfield, a programme           assisted reproduction, clinical         questions, it was impossible to
leader in developmental genetics at
the MRC Harwell Institute.
Kat Arney spoke to him to find out
                                          We recruited a number of people with
how he and his colleagues came to         a professional interest in the topic,
their conclusions, and why it’s so
important that scientists take part
                                          including scientists and clinicians.
in this kind of decision-making that      It was a real team effort.
informs policy.

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Another key concern was whether anyone has the right to a
genetically-related child. It’s a deeply held human desire, yet are
the risks and costs justified for such a small number of families,
given that there are other options such as egg donation, adoption or
remaining child-free? But minorities are extremely important – how
we deal with these rare cases tells us a lot about the quality of our
society, our humanity and the things we value.

ignore the wider ethical and social      No amount of preclinical data will        enough is not a purely scientific
implications of the technology,          allow you to be completely sure           process. It was unlikely we would
since the two are intertwined.           that an intervention is safe when         keep everybody happy with our
For example, it’s not ethical to         it’s first used in humans, so ‘Is it      conclusion.
offer a treatment that isn’t safe or     safe enough?’ is probably the better      What’s the current situation with
reliable. Then there are complex         question.                                 mitochondrial donation in the
issues around what it means to be        There’s also the question of how          clinic?
a parent. Is a mitochondrial donor       much preclinical data do you need.
a ‘third’ parent, or is there more                                                 Once the HFEA expert panel had
                                         How many experiments is enough?           recommended that the technique
to parenthood than providing a           Do you want to be 95 per cent sure?
small amount of mitochondrial                                                      should be pursued, it still had to be
                                         99 or 99.9 per cent sure? And can         agreed by a vote in Parliament that
DNA? Mitochondrial donations are         you justify using all the animals and
anonymous at the moment, but that                                                  altered the Act governing treatment.
                                         human embryos that it will take to        Subsequently, the HFEA agreed a
could change in the future – as it       get to that higher level of certainty?
did for sperm donors – so what does                                                regulatory mechanism that involved
                                         We could have asked researchers           licensing the clinic in Newcastle to
that mean for women who choose to        to carry on with lab work for 10, 20,
donate eggs for these techniques?                                                  perform the technique.
                                         30 years or more, but at some point
Another key concern was                  you just have to actually do it for the   Newcastle is currently the only UK
whether anyone has the right to          first time in humans.                     clinic that has demonstrated its
a genetically-related child. It’s a                                                competence in using the technique,
                                         Also, the approval process had            a central component of this
deeply held human desire, yet are        already taken the best part of 13
the risks and costs justified for such                                             regulation that seeks to protect
                                         years, which some people saw as           patients. In addition, permission
a small number of families, given        an unacceptable delay in bringing
that there are other options such as                                               must be sought from the HFEA for
                                         forward a potentially beneficial          each individual woman seeking
egg donation, adoption or remaining      treatment: ‘therapy delayed is
child-free? But minorities are                                                     treatment, on a case by case basis.
                                         therapy denied’, as some have             This approach may seem onerous,
extremely important – how we deal        said. Every year that passes means
with these rare cases tells us a lot                                               but mitochondrial donation is
                                         that there are people missing out         arguably the first human germline
about the quality of our society, our    on the chance to try to conceive
humanity and the things we value.                                                  intervention to be made lawful in
                                         using this technique and giving           history, so it’s appropriate that
The panel recommended cautious           birth to children affected by this        there should be some hoops to jump
approval for mitochondrial               appalling group of diseases, which        through for any clinic wishing
donation to go ahead in the UK –         in itself is an ethical consideration.    to offer it! Such regulation is
how did you decide that it was safe?     Deciding when enough research is          important in securing public trust.

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                                            21

Treatments are ongoing here in the       I believe we need to continue to talk    exist in a political sphere and
UK, in Newcastle, but there have         about these technologies in as many      our freedoms can be taken away,
been no live births so far (to my        different formats and to as many         including the freedom to do certain
knowledge). However, in 2016 there       different audiences as possible,         types of scientific research, so we
was a report of a birth following        so that we’re not paralysed by the       have to make the case for it. Over
mitochondrial donation in Mexico,        complexity – scientific and ethical      and over.
which generated a vast amount            - and end up relying on simplistic       We have to discuss these novel
of commentary and controversy.           tropes; but this is not an easy          and emerging technologies with
I think it would be preferable if        thing to achieve. The underlying         policymakers and the public
we all could move together on            science of mitochondrial donation        partly by focussing on how they
this internationally, but cultural       is fiendishly hard to understand. It’s   address people’s needs and societal
diversity plays a very large role,       not just about moving mitochondrial      challenges more broadly. We
particularly in this area. Even          DNA from here to there – analogies       also have to listen to concerns
within Europe there are varying          about ‘swapping the batteries’ of the    and take them seriously. That’s
attitudes towards human embryo           cell do a disservice to the complexity   what regulatory processes and
research and how comfortable             of the process.                          consultations are all about – they
people are with this kind of             Why should scientists get involved       are part of a process of constructive
intervention. I wouldn’t want to see     in consultation processes like this?     dialogue, of coping with diversity of
innovation grind to a halt on the                                                 opinion by generating a framework
basis that a technique is unlawful       Scientists shouldn’t have the final
                                         say on whether society is ready          in which people can trust that
or being misused somewhere else                                                   decisions are being made in ways
– that’s a bad argument for not          for a particular technology, but
                                         neither can we just step away and        that reflect society as a whole,
pursuing well-regulated, ethical                                                  not just specific interests. And
research and clinical innovation in      leave the entire decision-making
                                         process to other people. Science         scientists have to get involved. We
this country.                                                                     need to keep talking about what we
                                         and ethics go together. Knowledge
There has been quite a bit of            generated by research offers a good      do and why we do it, including the
coverage in the media about              reason for doing it. There are many      ethical and social dimensions of our
mitochondrial donation over the          innovations arising from genomic         research. This is about the future
years. Is it helpful?                    technologies that are exciting           of research and innovation, so it’s
Public communication and                 and could potentially help many          important to give your time to it.
engagement about these issues is         people – or even cause harm – but
essential, but I don’t think that        there’s no guarantee that we will
the public debate was particularly       continue inexorably towards their
helped by simplistic media coverage      introduction into the clinic, and we
about ‘three parent babies’ or talk of   can’t take it for granted that the
the slippery slope towards ‘designer’    future will unfold in a predictable
children.                                fashion. Science and scientists

Scientists shouldn’t have the final say on whether society is ready for
a particular technology, but neither can we just step away and leave
the entire decision-making process to other people.

                                                                                                www.genetics.org.uk . 21
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