Every month, one member of the TGMI team will tell us why they are so committed to the vision of the TGMI, and share a bit more about their work and interests. This week we hear from James Ware, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Genomic Medicine at Imperial College London.
What has been the main focus of your work to date?
I am working to understand the impact of genetic variation on the heart and circulation, and to improve our interpretation of genetic and genomic data so that it can be used in the clinic to improve patient care.
What are you most excited about in genetic medicine?
The growth in scale of available genetic data, and increasingly progressive attitudes to collaboration and data sharing, are empowering studies that have never been possible before. I am excited about harnessing these data to address questions around variable penetrance in inherited diseases, and interactions between variation in multiple genes, and between genes and the environment. We are also moving towards linking genetic data with increasingly comprehensive electronic health records at scale, which will provide new opportunities to discover links between our DNA and our health.
What are you most concerned about in genetic medicine?
I’m an optimist! But I guess it is the unknown unknowns that can really trip us up – big collective blind spots that only seem obvious with hindsight.
Why did you get involved in TGMI?
TGMI brings together clinicians and scientists from diverse backgrounds to tackle a central challenge of putting genetic information to work in the clinic – making the right data available and interpretable so that it can be used safely by clinicians. I find it very enlightening to appreciate the perspectives of people approaching this problem from different backgrounds – clinicians, biologists, data scientists, social scientists, all working in different disease areas and contexts. When I was asked to join the team I jumped at the chance.
What is the most important thing that you would like the TGMI to achieve?
I think the most important thing is to get a great team of people together to figure out the right questions to ask. Sometimes the answer is easy once you’ve figured out the right question. Sometimes it’s not…
If you had a magic wand (i.e. unlimited people/resources) what would you do to make genetic medicine work?
I think the process of discovery is fun – I’m not sure I’d want a magic wand in the research lab. But the process of implementation is often not fun. Maybe I’d make it impossible to misuse data, so that nobody needed to worry about GDPR and data governance…
Do you have a favourite gene? If so – what and why?
I have a soft spot for Titin – encoding the largest human protein. Titin is a key component of muscle, including the heart, and certain genetic variants can cause heart failure (and other muscle diseases), so it is important. But it’s sheer size makes it a complete pain to work with – it ends up breaking things and making a nuisance of itself. And I kind of like that.
What is a surprising fact that few people know about you?
I play the ukulele
If you had a chance to experience a completely different career for a week, what job would you try?
Musician? Architect? Diving for scallops?