HRH The Princess Royal opens Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine East Building

Election to Academia Europaea



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On 7th July 2016, HRH The Princess Royal visited the MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh (IGMM) to officially open the new East Building. 

The Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine East Building is a £14M project jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust–Wolfson Foundation, the Medical Research Council and the University of Edinburgh. It was designed to physically and intellectually link the three partner centres and units of the IGMM - the MRC Human Genetics Unit, the Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine and the Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre.

The exciting new environment is attracting the brightest and best researchers to push at the boundaries of genome science and data science - the new building hosts 100 data scientists, as part of our 500–strong Institute, working on some of the most pressing problems in medicine. 

HRH The Princess Royal, Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, toured the building to meet Chancellors Fellows and students who have benefitted from the new facilities and improved interactions across the Institute, discussing key research priorities.

HRH The Princess Royal officially opened the new building at a reception with invited guests, unveiling a plaque and giving thanks to all those involved in the building project and to researchers across the IGMM.


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Diseases that run in families not all down to genes, study shows

Diseases that run in families not all down to genes, study shows



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Family history of disease may be as much the result of shared lifestyle and surroundings as inherited genes, research has shown.

Factors that are common to the family environment – such as shared living space and common eating habits – can make a major contribution to a person’s risk of disease, the study found.

A study of common diseases in families across the UK has highlighted the importance of such factors in estimating a person’s risk for diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression.

Previous studies have identified genes that are linked to numerous medical conditions, yet these only account for part of a person’s likelihood of developing disease.

Researchers led by the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and MRC Human Genetics Unit examined the medical histories of more than 500,000 people and their families – including both blood and adoptive relatives.

They looked at incidences of 12 common diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, and several cancers and neurological diseases.

By not accounting for shared environmental factors, scientists may overestimate the importance of genetic variation by an average of 47 per cent, the study found.

Experts say their findings will help to provide realistic expectations of the value of genetic testing for identifying people at risk of disease.

The research also underlines the need to identify environmental factors that contribute to diseases and how to modify them to reduce disease risk.

The study published in Nature Genetics, used data from the UK Biobank, a UK database of volunteers’ health.

Professor Chris Haley, of the University’s MRC Human Genetics Unit, said: “The huge UK Biobank study allowed us to obtain very precise estimates of the role of genetics in these important diseases. It also identified those diseases where the shared family environment is important, such as heart disease, hypertension and depression, and also equally interestingly those where family environment is of limited or no apparent importance, such as dementia, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.”

The study was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council, which provide strategic funding to The Roslin Institute and the Human Genetics Unit, respectively.