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A Royal Seal of Approval from a really Cool Duke!

Illumina Social
| Jan 24, 2013

His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, KG sequences a cancer genome at Chesterford! 

His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, KG and David Bentley at Illumina

On January 22, 2013, the Duke braved deep snow and arctic temperatures to meet the entire team of Illumina Cambridge at Little Chesterford, UK. The Duke was welcomed by David Bentley, Vice President and Chief Scientist (shown in picture on right), who—together with members of the senior UK Team representing Research and Development, Commercial Operations, and BlueGnome—briefed the royal visitor on our history, who we are, and what we do. The Duke and his entourage were amazed at the progress and innovation of our sequencing technology, especially how it has surpassed the initial dream of Solexa’s founders 12 years ago: “To sequence the entire genome of an individual human in a day or two for less than $5,000”. The fact that we are already delivering whole cancer genomes back to doctors within two days, enabling them to give more precise diagnoses and better care, deeply impressed the Duke, and he showed great enthusiasm for the potential benefits of whole-genome sequencing in hospitals.His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, KG starts a run on a HiSeq system

Everyone donned lab coats and safety glasses for a tour of the laboratories, stopping to meet and chat with many of the staff. The Duke heard the story of how we developed the sequencing process and how it works today: from DNA to clusters, and chemicals to sequence, to the development and refinement of finished kits for customers. He witnessed the evolution of technology from one of our earliest Solexa Genome Analyzers (still operating today), through the GAIIx and finally to the MiSeq and HiSeq 2000 systems. At this point we invited the Duke to start a cancer genome run on the HiSeq 2500 system, and he was delighted to oblige! (shown in picture, right)His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, KG and Kevin Hall

 The Duke was treated to a display of data on screen (“Does it really look like that?”, shown in picture, left, with Kevin Hall), demonstrating the complexity of genome data and the ability to pinpoint a cancer mutation in a brain tumour from a patient recently sequenced in Chesterford. He was fascinated to hear from the founder of BlueGnome, a leading provider of solutions for the screening of genetic abnormalities associated with developmental delay, cancer, and infertility. The Duke also met our colleagues on the commercial team and heard how their multilingual backgrounds are so valuable for supporting our customers across Europe. At the end of his visit, the Duke spoke to everyone, gave his heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to meet us, and unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion (shown in picture, below).His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, KG and David Bentley

The Duke and his team were very enthusiastic about the visit and took away a great impression of our work, its impact on human health, and the dynamism and commitment of our staff. “Brilliant!” and "Really impressive!" were the verdicts as they left to do battle with the Great British weather.

His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, KG, Neil Ward, and David Bentley
 (Images: Left, HRH Duke of
His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, KG and David BentleyKent with David Bentley, Neil Ward, and others. Right, HRH Duke of Kent meeting David Bentley, accompanied by Mr. Hugh Duberly, Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire)