Lower Sixth Former Laurence Pleuger and 16 other Bedford School pupils have been part of a pioneering research journey that could help change the lives of children around the world.

The group of students have been working with scientists from the Wellcome Genome Campus to help identify all of the genes in the Human Whipworm genome – a process known as annotation. Human Whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) which affects millions of children in third world countries who typically have poor sanitation. The Whipworm parasitic infection causes diarrhoea, abdominal pain, malnutrition and severe developmental problems.

Under the microscope – The Human Whipworm

The boys have been working with the scientists to help predict where the genes are. While algorithms are used to do this, human eyes are also required to assess the evidence to decide whether the computer predictions are correct. The students and scientists can then use this information to look at drug targets to treat the parasite.

Laurence, who is studying Biology, Politics, History and Religious Education at A-Level, was identified as one of the top annotators on the project and, as a result, has been invited to go and work with the scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge over the summer.

Laurence’s Biology teacher Mrs Mainstone told us, “Laurence has taken the time to fully understand the data and program that we have been using and has given his time to explain his knowledge to other students. He has annotated the genome in his own time and I am delighted that his knowledge and time have been recognised.”

This is great news for Laurence who would like to work in Bioinformatics (the science of collecting and analysing complex biological data).

Very well done to Laurence and the other students who also worked on the project.

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