If you check the twitter page of UK company Genomics England, a happy picture emerges of an ambitious company building the latest medical knowledge base. Dig a bit deeper and you find that Genomics England is just an arm of UK government (“Genomics England was established in July 2013 as a company 100% owned by the Department of Health.”) and the project is funded by taxpayer money. One can reinterpret it as a prosperous country investing in future of science and technology. The related news stories are all reflective of that ambitious future plan -
A project aiming to revolutionise medicine by unlocking the secrets of DNA is under way in centres across England.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said it “will see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years”.
The first genetic codes of people with cancer or rare diseases, out of a target of 100,000, have been sequenced.
Experts believe it will lead to targeted therapies and could make chemotherapy “a thing of the past”.
Just one human genome contains more than three billion base pairs - the building blocks of DNA.
But how prosperous is UK really? Apparently it is so broke that the government started to tax the medals won by soldiers for bravery in past war (to fund GWAS among other things) !!
Like most old soldiers, my father Jim would never talk about the horrors he witnessed in the Second World War. He served as a signals officer with the Royal Navy on convoy duty in the treacherous waters of the north Atlantic, on the bridge of the admirals flagship on D-Day, and in operations to search and destroy enemy submarines in the Indian Ocean and off the west coast of Africa. It was dangerous work, and the sight of men drowning in torpedo oil as merchant ships were sunk in freezing waters was too painful to recount.
Even the medals he received at the end of the war were given scant attention. My mother, Mary, kept them in a box which she placed in a brown envelope simply labelled Dads Medals, and put them in the back of a drawer.
My father only took them out once. He had, for a time, served with the Free French on a Corvette with a ships company of 98 French sailors and only four British. In 1992 the French Government honoured all foreign nationals who had taken up arms with their forces and awarded my father a small pension. They also invited him to receive a handsome certificate commending his bravery on behalf of their nation and a medal, Le Croix du Combattant. I accepted this on his behalf at a ceremony at Caen Town Hall, on the north French coast, at which I was kissed enthusiastically on both cheeks by the mayor.
Following this, Dad was invited to the French ambassadors residence in Kensington on Bastille Day, for which he took out his medals, pinned them proudly to his chest and marched into the elegant mansion, saluted by Foreign Legionnaires.
Dad died 12 years ago. My mother died at Christmas. Suddenly, the medals were mine.
So I was touched when the nice young man from our solicitors, George Ide LLP in Chichester, took a special interest in Dads medals, asked what they were awarded for and inquired in general about his war record. He had come to assess my mothers modest furniture and few possessions for probate. She lived in a small flat in this West Sussex town and left a modest estate.
A few days later, a financial assessment of chests, pictures, lamps and ornaments in my mothers flat dropped through her letter box. It came to just
- I had no issue with this until my gaze fell on a price attatched to Dads medals.
It read: A World War Two Medal group of five to James Gilchrist in presentation frame: 40.
And how relevant is this gigantic 100K genome project (#100KGP) for anything in science? Let us come back to that in a future commentary.