Oxford London Lecture 2011: The Gene Revolution

2011 was the inaugural year of the Oxford London Lecture. The lecture was made possible by the generous support of the Romanes Fund.

Title: The Gene Revolution – Opportunities and Challenges

Advances in genomic science: what are the opportunities and challenges for society and the individual?


Professor Peter Donnelly FRS
Professor of Statistical Science and Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in the University of Oxford

Synopsis of the 2011 lecture

Professor Peter Donnelly talked about recent advances in genomic science and the opportunities they provide for improved healthcare and disease prevention for common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and many of the cancers.

He, and a panel of experts, chaired by the Financial Times' editor, Lionel Barber, then considered some of the consequences for society of these developments.  Are healthcare systems well placed to take advantage of these advances? How should information about an individual's DNA sequence be handled?  What access, if any, should relatives, employers or insurance providers have to this kind of information?  And how, as a society, should we consider situations in which individuals are identified as being at higher risk of a particular disease, but choose not to take reasonable personal steps to ameliorate that risk?

Biography of Peter Donnelly

Peter Donnelly is Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and Professor of Statistical Science in the University of Oxford.  Peter grew up in Australia before coming to Oxford in 1980 as a Rhodes Scholar to undertake doctoral work in Mathematics.  Since then he has worked at and held professorships in a number of Universities in the UK and the US, including the University of London and the University of Chicago, before returning to Oxford in 1996. 

Peter's early research focussed on mathematical and statistical problems in genetics, but over time he has become more and more involved in the science itself.  He has played central roles in a number of major collaborations, including the International HapMap project, the successor to the Human Genome Project which studied the patterns of genetic variation in global populations, and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortia, which he chairs.  These UK-wide consortia represent some of the largest studies of the genetics of common human diseases ever undertaken, analysing genetic data from over 80,000 people in studying 25 common diseases and conditions.   In 2007, Peter moved within Oxford to take up the Directorship of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, a research centre of around 400 scientists working to understand the genetic basis of common human diseases.  Peter has received a number of academic awards for his work, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Academic Background:
BSc in Mathematics, University of Queensland (1976-79); DPhil in Mathematics, Balliol College, University of Oxford (1980-83), Rhodes Scholar; Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics, University of Michigan (1983-84); University of Wales Research Fellow, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University College of Swansea (1984-85); Lecturer, Department of Statistical Science, University College London (1985-88); Professor of Mathematical Statistics and Operational Research, Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London (1988-94); Professor, Department of Statistics and Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago (1994-96); Professor of Statistical Science, University of Oxford (1996-present); Head of the Department of Statistics (1996-2001); Director, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, Oxford (2007-present).

Event venue

The Assembly Hall, Church House, Westminster
Church House Conference Centre,
Westminster Dean's Yard,
See venue on a map

Date: Tuesday 1 February 2011

At 6.45pm