Life At Genomics England

Meet some of our colleagues to find out more about us and what brought them here.

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  • Vivienne Parry

    Head of Engagement

  • Nathan Hicks

    Technical Product Specialist and Infrastructure Programme Delivery Manager

  • Louise Daugherty

    Scientific Curator

  • Lisa Dinh

    Senior Communications Manager

  • Dr Rebecca Foulger

    Scientific Curator

  • Dr Tom Fowler

    Deputy Chief Scientist, Director of Public Health, Caldicott Guardian

  • Photo of Joanne Hackett

    Joanne Hackett

    Chief Commercial Officer

  • Kathryn Mountford

    Kathryn Mountford

    Head of Human Resources

  • Olivia Niblock

    Clinical Interpretation Analyst/PanelApp Curator

  • Dr Simon Thompson

    Data Wrangler

Vivienne Parry

Head of Engagement

I work part-time for the Project and my role is to work with the participants and the public, to understand their concerns, and to earn and retain their trust in these new technologies and their implications. A particularly important aspect has been setting up the Participant Panel to ensure that we are involving the participants in what we do and how we roll out our service and that we learn from their wisdom and experience. What I do at Genomics England with wider policy dovetails with work I do elsewhere in science – for instance, my role on the board of UK Research & Innovation Council and of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Life at Genomics England

I started with Genomics England when we were just five people working out of an old lab as, right from the start, public engagement was seen to be key to our success. I work with our splendid and much admired Communications team.

Highlights

The best part of this job is talking to the participants who are just wonderful – thoughtful, practical, insightful, clever and hilarious to be with. I do many talks and debates, and always love the questions, especially from kids. And I like bringing together the many different strands of my life in order to help deliver the vision of genomics.

What brought me here

DNA was what drew me into science, and I reported on the Human Genome Project. But of all the extraordinary scientific advances I have been privileged to report on, the 100,000 Genomes Project is the most exciting because by the time we complete, it will have put us on the road to a completely new type of healthcare, enabled by genomics.

About me

My background is as a science writer and broadcaster. I did Genetics for my degree. I loved the science but was hopeless in the lab and broke so much equipment that I was banned from doing practicals. I then ran a medical research charity, working with the Princess of Wales, who was its patron, for over a decade. But people and communicating science was always what I loved best, and somehow I fell into TV, becoming the presenter of the BBC’s iconic science show, Tomorrow’s World. I have also made hundreds of programmes for Radio 4 on health and science, including 4 series of Inside the Ethics Committee. I’ve always been a bit of a scribbler and have been a columnist for The Times, the Guardian and the News of the World; an agony aunt for Good Housekeeping; and have published several books. I still make films and do a huge amount of facilitation and hosting of major science events across the world. I have a thing for healthcare scientists and have worked with CSO Sue Hill for many years, promoting their many talents (the NHS’s 60,000 healthcare scientists include bioinformaticians and people working in genetics labs).

Despite travelling so much, I am a fanatical gardener, growing many varieties of flowers and vegetables in our garden in the Cotswolds. I also love cooking and make a lot of cakes and jam.

Nathan Hicks

Technical Product Specialist and Infrastructure Programme Delivery Manager

I lead a team of Technical Project Managers that manage infrastructure work across Genomics England, both aligned to specific business led projects and supporting core infrastructure services. I also perform the role of technical product specialist and technical project manager, combining business analyst, technical writing, quality management and project management skills to help the engineers and architects to understand what they need to build. I work closely with service management and the Platforms Operations team to triage and manage resolution of live service incidents and service requests.

Life at Genomics England

I joined the project in August 2014 as a Software Development Manager, with the initial remit to build a software development team and develop data capture tools. I’ve performed a number of roles across projects in the course of my career here – stepping in where there is a need to fulfil a particular role, across business areas. The work has been varied and inspirational; the people talented, committed and a pleasure to work with.

What brought me here

This Project is transforming healthcare by embedding the use of whole genome sequencing (WGS) within the NHS. Treatments will be better targeted to the specific needs of individuals and through research new insights into the data will drive new treatments. I could not pass up the opportunity to get involved.

Highlights

I am particularly proud of building a team and getting the minimum viable product for data capture by health professionals out of the door in March 2015, and then leading the team through 18 successful software releases in 12 months. Another personal highlight in 2016 was unveiling the Research Environment to the initial three GeCIP academic research domains for neurology, colorectal cancer and machine learning. My involvement in Platforms Engineering since 2017 has allowed me a fresh new perspective on the Project, to understand the underpinning infrastructure across the Project and the essential enabling role that this plays in the success of the work across all business areas.

About me

I was lucky enough to grow up in the beautiful city of Bath. I studied Literae Humaniores at Oxford, a combination of ancient (Greek and Roman) literature, ancient history and philosophy, followed by a masters in IT, before becoming a consultant for a global management consultancy firm. This role exposed me to a number of roles across the software development lifecycle, with a focus on quality in software engineering and across a number of sectors. I then joined the Forensic Science Service in a hands-on development and team management role on the DNA Database.

Prior to joining Genomics England I managed all software development on the National DNA Database, leading teams of project managers, application developers, test specialists and application support specialists, as well as rolling up my sleeves to develop software hands on at the Forensic Science Service and latterly the Home Office. The move to Genomics England provided me the opportunity to move from criminal justice to the health service on an equally inspirational initiative – with the opportunity to bring my existing skills and experience and to learn a great deal in terms of technology and business sector.

Family time is very important to me. I am a FIFA-qualified football coach and have managed a team of junior players from Under 8s through to Under 13s. This season we narrowly missed out on promotion to the first division in our league and made a cup final! I love to travel and with family in Canada and Sweden I have good reason to do so. I enjoy cooking (and eating!)

Future plans

Excited to support the transition from a project to a service and help establish the use of WGS technology routinely within the health service. In doing so, I am keen to help refine and improve our working practices.

Advice

For people coming into this field, I’d say that you need to plan to iterate – to explore and be open to different approaches and technologies but plan how to detect that an approach is not working and move on quickly.

Louise Daugherty

Scientific Curator

I work in the curation team working on the PanelApp resource, gathering knowledge on rare disease genes from publications and from experts in the scientific community. There is no single resource that has all the answers, so compiling evidence feels like being a detective, but at the molecular level! This means searching databases, publications and communicating with experts to determine if a variant in a gene can explain the observed clinical phenotype.

There isn’t a single word that encapsulates what I do, so I made one up. I like to ‘De-chaosify’ – disentangling information to improve the core dataset of genes and their associated disorders. This also means checking the accuracy and consistency of our data, which in turn improves the power of our curational team effort.

Life at Genomics England

I am a relatively new joiner, but it hasn’t taken long to feel at home. The curation team is an array of scientists, clinicians and bioinformaticians who have a range of expertise from industry, research and within the NHS, who all want to facilitate improved approaches to healthcare. I believe this diversity is why we have such a dynamic and collaborative team.

What brought me here:
To be part of a big project, with big ideas, big results and big solutions. The aim to harness new technologies to improve patient diagnosis and treatment within the NHS and globally.

Highlights

Genomics England recognises the value of curation. A rigorous academic approach within a commercial environment makes it a stimulating and rewarding place to work, as I am part of a team of curators, but also collaborate closely with people who have complementary skills.

My role means I need to access data on a variety of different inherited Rare Disease areas and this has enabled me to develop a broad understanding of rare disease as a whole. I am also seeing the direct impact of how phenotyping can lead to an increased understanding of causal genes and variants. PanelApp is a publically-available database and crowdsourcing tool. I believe data sharing has important long and short-term benefits not only to the scientific community but also to the public, and the importance of this is recognised by Genomics England.

About me

I have curated a variety of things during my career, from heritage vegetables to mutant forms of Arabidopsis, and from human genes to ontologies and protein signatures.

I had previously worked on the NIHR BioResource-Rare Diseases whole genome sequencing project, where 10,000 samples were analysed as part of the national pilot project for Rare Diseases as a prelude to the 100,000 Genomes Project.

With a long-established history of curation – extracting, annotating and interpreting data ­– I can be part of the bigger project through working at Genomics England. This means that I can continue to help a wider group of patients with Rare Diseases to get a diagnosis. This in turn will enable greater efficiencies in the future of healthcare.

Originally from South Africa, my family moved to the UK, where my parents owned their own pharmacy business. My curation training started early, with many summer holidays spent deciphering doctors handwriting as I sorted prescriptions. Although my undergraduate and post-graduate degrees are in plant science, it was good training for what I do now, as plant models are not diploid like humans, but polyploid, with multiple pairs of chromosomes – which is an even more complicated genomics puzzle to solve!

Lisa Dinh

Senior Communications Manager

I work in the Communications and Engagement team, helping to deliver internal and external communications activities for Genomics England and the 100,000 Genomes Project. My main responsibilities include planning and managing events, stakeholder engagement, managing corporate identity guidelines, dealing with media enquiries, social media, and producing videos, infographics, and leaflets to raise awareness for the project among patients, healthcare professionals, researchers and the general public.

Life at Genomics England

I joined Genomics England as an intern, after completing my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry. When I started here three years ago, the project was still in the pilot phase and there was just a handful of employees. Seeing how fast the organisation and project has grown since has been fantastic, and I’ve really enjoyed working on many of the early milestones in the project; from when signed the sequencing contract with Illumina, received ethics approval, launched the 13 NHS Genomic Medicine Centres, and the first patient diagnoses.

This project is really pioneering in the genomics field, which means that we’re constantly learning and evolving, and no two days are the same in my role!

You get to meet and work with brilliant people from all sorts of backgrounds here at Genomics England – many of whom are leading experts in their field- and there’s a shared sense that patients are the heart of the organisation and our work.

I’ve always been interested in translational research and was drawn to the project’s ambitious aims of transforming the NHS through genomic medicine. Coming straight out of from university, I was looking for a role that was challenging and one that I could grow in – two things that have definitely been fulfilled since working here.

About Me

After university, I was keen to stay in science but wasn’t sure what career options there were beyond the lab. Communications and media was never an industry I’d considered before, but during my degree I enjoyed using different creative tools to explain complex biological topics, and that’s something I’ve taken across in my role now. I also worked in healthcare, volunteering in hospitals and as a first aider, so that was really valuable experience for my current role – working with families and patients taking part in the project.

I grew up in London and did my undergraduate degree at Queen Mary University of London. Since then I’ve stayed closely tied to the university– with our offices based on the Charterhouse Square campus, and continuing my studies by doing a full time MSc in Genomic Medicine. It’s a lovely, historical campus and with all the greenery you can almost forget that it’s in the middle of London.

I’ve always been interested in translational research and was drawn to the project’s ambitious aims of transforming the NHS through genomic medicine. Coming straight from university, I was looking for a role that was challenging and one that I could grow in – both these wishes have been fulfilled.

Future Plans and Advice

Genomics is one of the most exciting fields in science right now, and the 100,000 Genomes Project really is at the cutting edge on – there isn’t a precedent anywhere else in the world for how to use this technology in mainstream care on such a large scale. This means that working at Genomics England can be fast-paced, with priorities and plans often changing as we come across challenges and learn from them. That’s what also makes it exciting – there’s never a boring day!

Dr Rebecca Foulger

Scientific Curator

I work as part of the curation team at Genomics England. My current focus is on creating high-quality virtual gene panels in the Rare Diseases arm of the 100,000 Genomes project. The diversity of the curation work means I get to cover a wide range of diseases, and also get to work on different project areas including cancer and pharmacogenetics.

My work involves community engagement and outreach- discussing our gene panels with key clinicians and researchers to reach a community-approved gene set. I have also presented our curation projects to University students wanting to know more about our project, and at Scientific meetings.

Life at Genomics England

In my first year I’ve continually learned about the wider aspects of the project. The curation-side allows me to work independently but be involved in an active team, working alongside other curators, clinicians and software developers. I work from both the Hinxton and London Genomics England offices so I am close to our collaborators on the Wellcome Genome campus, and remain connected to the project headquarters (it also helps cut-down my daily commute).

Highlights

Working in a dynamic group is a huge bonus, where everyone brings a different set of skills to the curation team. Working so closely with clinicians is great to get the medical knowledge to finish off a gene panel.

What brought me here

I wanted to work on a project that had a significant impact. The 100,000 Genomes Project is so well-known in the Genomics field, so I was always intrigued about how curation fitted in to the pipeline. As I was investigating the project further, good timing meant that I was approaching the end of my UCL grant when the Genomics England curation team was expanding.

About me

After a laboratory-based PhD in signaling pathways in Drosophila, I moved into a career in biological curation and ontologies. My first role was at Cambridge University, working on the Drosophila database FlyBase. After 3 years, I moved to the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) to join UniProt, where I was responsible for Xenopus and zebrafish protein curation. Much of my work at FlyBase and UniProt involved using and improving ontologies, and working within large International Consortiums, so it was a natural progression to move to the EBI Gene Ontology (GO) team. Working on ontology development gave me a fantastic overview of a huge range of biological systems, and I could combine the ontology annotation and development skills I’d picked up in my previous posts.

I delayed starting a GO annotation post at UCL so I could squeeze in a short contract at a Cambridge start-up company, testing a new tool for collating MetaData. My longer-term UCL post then focussed on Parkinson’s disease, confirming my interest in human disease, and leading to my current post.

I grew up in Dorset, and will always have an affinity for the coast (even living in land-locked Cambridgeshire). Science was my strongest subject at school, and the area I was most interested in. After considering a career in medicine, I realised it was biology at the cellular level that most interested me most, and lead to me study a Biochemistry and Genetics degree at Nottingham University. I loved the whole experience of moving to a new city and taking on new challenges. I now balance work and family life, working part-time at Genomics England to make this somewhat easier.

Future Plans and Advice

I hope to continue my career within Human Genetics. Although my key interest remains in curation, I aim to develop more bioinformatics skills en-route to expand the roles I can take on. The Genomics field is dynamic, and it will be interesting to see what directions these projects take.

Curation is a great field for those wanting to stay in Science but not head down the laboratory route. I would suggest familiarising yourself with a range of databases, and getting some experience in curation- often posts advertised as short-term will lead to a longer project so don’t discount temporary jobs.

Dr Tom Fowler

Deputy Chief Scientist, Director of Public Health, Caldicott Guardian

I have operational responsibility for the Genomics England interface with the NHS – in this capacity I work to support the science stream around rare diseases, infectious diseases and cancer.

In particular, I have led the rare disease pilot phase of the 100,000 Genomes Project. I also coordinate the Project’s infectious disease strand, which is led primarily by Public Health England.

About Me

I have a PhD in Behavioural Genetics from Cardiff University focusing on child and adolescent psychopathology and continued to a research position studying drug and alcohol use in adolescence. This sparked my interest in public health and I then moved to train as a public health consultant.

In my previous role I was a locum consultant epidemiologist in the West Midlands investigating infectious disease outbreaks, with a strong interest in the applications of Whole Genome Sequencing.

Prior to that I was based with the Chief Medical Officer of England, Dame Sally Davies, and I was editor of her first two annual reports on the state of Public Health. In my public health life I have worked at local, regional and national level in a wide range of areas from specialised commissioning to a placement with the National Behavioural Economics Unit (at the time based in the Cabinet Office).

Despite being service-based in my public health career, I have retained a strong interest in research and continued to publish service base issues (see ResearchGate).


Photo of Joanne Hackett

Joanne Hackett

Chief Commercial Officer

As Chief Commercial Officer and lead member of the Business and Investment Committee, I am responsible for Genomics England’s industry engagement strategy. By developing, managing and accelerating relationships with commercial organisations we are creating opportunities for collaboration both nationally and globally.

This includes creating a portfolio of external investments and strategic alliances that advance technology and product strategies, and help to meet research, development and commercialisation goals.

It is my goal to have everyone feeling as though they are part of the ‘commercial team’ – because they are. We have a responsibility to ensure the great work we and our partners do is realised fully. Commercialisation may mean that a partner grows their company or it may mean that we submit a patent. It can mean several things – it’s not always about a company trying to become rich.

Life At Genomics England

I was recruited to Genomics England in April 2017 and must admit I feel very at home here. I have been welcomed and embraced and already feel as though I am working as part of a team. A commercial role can be thought of as one that is not linked to ‘core business’ – but that is not at all true. Commercialisation of clinical research is what has led to very interesting outcomes and has encouraged competition which has led to even more advancement.

The relentless pursuit of better health for the patient population is at the heart of Genomics England. This is exceptionally important for me and something I have been striving towards my whole life. Genomic medicine has been a major part of my life as I have Coeliac Disease and this is only diagnosed by sequencing. While a bit dramatic to say it – genomic medicine has saved my life. It is now my duty to pay it forward.

My highlight is working with people who are passionate about improving the lives of the patient population.

About me

I have been involved with clinical research for the past 20 years. I have always worked in the space that combines the A,B,C’s – academia, business and clinical.

I have been fortunate to work in all industries – and by doing so I can see what is missing in each of them. Having a role which allows me to pull through the strengths of each sector is very exciting and rewarding.

I am from the East Coast of Canada and left home when I was 16 to pursue an undergraduate degree. I moved to London for a MSc and back to Canada for a PhD. Postdoctoral work was in Canada and America, before moving to Sweden for my first academic post. While I am best known as a clinical academic and entrepreneur who successfully translates academic research into medical and commercial returns, I am also a yoga instructor in my spare time! Namaste genomes.

Future plans

I am excited to be part of an initiative that will allow the full potential of genomic medicine to be realised. My goal is to have everyone at Genomics England embrace the commercial agenda and allow us to really put the UK on the map as a world leader in this space. We have excellent science, a unified healthcare system and data that is very rich. If we can pave the way for others – we will be saving and enhancing lives daily. I will always find time to discuss the commercial agenda with anyone who is interested – don’t be shy… just drop me an email!

Contact

You can find out more about our Industry Partnerships here: Working With Industry

Contact Us

Kathryn Mountford

Kathryn Mountford

Head of Human Resources

I’m responsible for ensuring that we have a progressive working environment, that enables us to attract and retain the best in the business.

Life At Genomics England

I work with a small HR team and love to see my colleagues grow and develop new skills and confidence.

I was excited by the change of enhancing the HR function and applying my change management expertise in a new environment. I really enjoy applying what I’ve learnt about behavioural change and Agile leadership into Genomics England, and helping the organisation attract highly skilled colleagues from diverse backgrounds.

Genomics England is a great place to be part of a transformation that will change society for the better.

About Me

I’ve worked in HR and business change roles across a range of regulatory, financial, technology and customer facing organisations. I enjoy working in environments that are altruist in outlook, and commercially savvy.

Contact

You can view our job opportunities here

Olivia Niblock

Clinical Interpretation Analyst/PanelApp Curator

I am lucky enough to work in two different teams within the Bioinformatics department at Genomics England. In my role as a Clinical Interpretation Analyst, I perform quality control checks on the sequenced genomes returned to Genomics England by our Clinical Interpretation Partners, whereas in my role as a Curator, I create and review virtual gene panels for the diseases in the project – genes which will go on to annotate participants’ genomes.

Life at Genomics England

I have been in my role for over two years and one thing I noticed immediately is the diversity of specialities that are brought together here – from clinicians and bioinformaticians to lawyers and ethicists. The work is ever changing but above all it’s rewarding.

One of the best things about working here is the willingness of colleagues to help you learn new skills and share their knowledge with you. I have learnt so much from my colleagues and am very grateful for the opportunity to expand my knowledge of different subjects.

About Me

I came to Genomics England as a Medical Genetics graduate, having worked previously for a mental health charity, and originally worked in the Service Delivery department before moving to the bioinformatics department on the completion of my masters in Genomic Medicine.

I became interested in genetics from a young age after my cousin died from juvenile Huntington’s disease aged 5. I wanted to be part of bringing genomic technologies into the NHS and help in any way possible to alleviate the suffering of other people and families blighted by genetic disorders.

Dr Simon Thompson

Data Wrangler

Genomics England gets clinical data of lots of different types from lots of different sources. I am part of a team that takes in all these different sources of data, and amalgamates them into a more cohesive dataset for use by the various researchers accessing the deidentified 100,000 Genomes Project dataset.

Day to day I look at lots of data, write computer programs to reshape that data, and do some basic analysis of the data’s quality and suitability. There is lots of creative problem-solving and discussion with colleagues about what the end product should look like, and how to get there.

Life at Genomics England

I’m quite new to this role but worked at Genomics England for a couple of years previously in the GeCIP Team. Over that time I’ve really seen the company grow and the project progress. It might sound a little trite, but it is a real honour to be part of such an important cutting-edge project. To work with people of all different backgrounds, but all very good at what they do, makes every day a school day.

In my postdoc I routinely had to explain to potential research participants that the results of our research wouldn’t benefit them, and might not even benefit their grandchildren; after a while it was a bit dispiriting. With the 100,000 Genomes Project the benefits to the participants are more clear, and even the research findings are being fast-tracked into patient care. The project feels like it is paving the way for how healthcare and research can operate in a world that expects immediacy.

Working at Genomics England can be pretty hectic, but this means that there is real license to shape what you do and how you do it. I’ve always been encouraged to take ownership of a piece of work which has allowed me to learn new skills and develop new talents that I might not have got if my role was a bit more structured.

About Me

I come from an academic background. After a PhD I went to America for a postdoc that involved leading long field trips in a number of countries across Africa. After five incredible years, I moved back to London but a postdoc I’d set up beforehand fell through. A little disillusioned with the fragility of an academic career, I started to work managing a number of separate research projects. I saw the Genomics England advert and I knew I had to go for it, and was lucky enough to get it.

I grew up in Wales but have spent most of my professional life in various bits of London. I’m a cycling fanatic in that I love riding bikes but also love watching the professionals race. Several years ago I cycled from Cambridge to Kenya and although I’ve done other similar cycle tours in the past (and would like to do more), for now I’m restricted to the odd weekend away and the daily commute into work.

Future Plans and Advice

I came to computer programming late in my career and always regret taking the easy way out and not forcing myself to learn during my PhD. I think being able to program and use a computer efficiently is relevant to the vast majority of jobs, and it’s certainly something I would encourage others to consider if they’re not already.