16 March 2023 – DNA pioneer profile Shankar Balasubramanian

The University of Cambridge have published a profile of Shankar Balasubramanian and his collaborator, David Klenerman, who discovered a revolutionary sequencing technology.

Shankar is the Plenary speaker at the Genetics Society event “DNA: Past, Present and Future”, to be held 29th June 2023. The event will mark the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA double helix and will feature presentations by The Society’s 2023 award winners.

We would be thrilled if you could join us at the event, which will be held at the Sanger building in the Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge. Stay tuned for more details of the event.

20 November 2022 – Awards 2023

We’re proud to announce the award winners for 2023- congratulations!

JBS Haldane Lecture 2023 – Dr Adam Rutherford, University College London, London

Genetics Society Medal 2023 – Professor Douglas Higgs, University of Oxford, Oxford

Mary Lyon Medal 2023 – Professor Cecilia Lindgren, University of Oxford, Oxford

Balfour Lecture 2023 – Dr Lucy van Dorp, University College London, London

Bruce Cattanach Prize – Dr Louisa Zolkiewski, University of Oxford

Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize – Sam Mitchell, University of Edinburgh

Image: Frank Hailer.

Mary Lyon Medal 2022 – Prof Irene Miguel-Aliaga

Irene Miguel-Aliaga is Professor of Genetics and Physiology at Imperial College London, and MRC Investigator at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences.

Irene has an interest in the crosstalk between organs – in particular, how and why the intestine communicates with other organs, such as the brain.  Her lab was one of the first to tackle the study of the brain-gut axis using the powerful genetics of Drosophila: work that they have now extended to mouse and human models.

Irene and her team discovered that the brain-gut axes of males and females are very different, and that these intestinal sex differences impact food intake, gamete production and tumour susceptibility.  They have also investigated how the intestine senses nutrients, revealing unexpected
roles for metal sensing in the regulation of feeding and growth.

Irene trained as a biochemist in Barcelona, Spain and she received her PhD in Genetics from the University of Oxford (UK).  She investigated how neurons develop during postdoctoral work at Harvard (USA), Linköping University (Sweden) and NIMR (now Crick Institute, UK).

Irene was the recipient of an ERC Starting Grant and currently holds an ERC Advanced Grant.  She was elected to the EMBO YIP programme in 2012, to EMBO in 2017 and to the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2019.  She was also awarded a Suffrage Science Women in Science award in 2018.

Irene will receive her medal at the Society Mendel’s 200th Birthday event on 20th July, 2022.

Balfour Lecture 2022 – Dr Sam Behjati

Sam Behjati is a Group Leader / Wellcome Intermediate Fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and Honorary Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.  Originally from Germany, he read medicine at the University of Oxford.  Subsequently he underwent academic clinical training in London and obtained his PhD from Cambridge.  He started his current position at Sanger in October 2018.

Sam’s research focuses on the origins of childhood cancer.  In one line of enquiry, he uses somatic mutations as barcodes of human development which enable the reconstruction of the embryology of tissues.

Sam has applied this approach to study normal tissue development, most notably, of the placenta, and to childhood cancers.  For example, in Wilms tumour, his analyses showed that many seemingly sporadic tumours arose from developmentally acquired clonal expansions.  In another line of research, Sam studies single childhood cancer cells, through the direct comparison of cancer with developmental cells, to place childhood cancers on trajectories of human development.

Sam’s work has been recognised by several awards such as the Pezcoller Foundation-EACR Rising Star Award, the Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award of the St Baldrick’s Foundation and the Science / SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. He is an EMBO Young Investigator and has recently been awarded a Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship.

The Genetics Society is delighted to add to Sam’s accolade by awarding the 2022 Balfour lecture.  Sam will deliver his lecture at the Society Mendel’s 200th Birthday event on 20th July, 2022.

JBS Haldane Lecture 2022 – Prof Mike Fay

The Genetics Society is delighted to announce Professor Mike Fay, Kew Gardens, as the winner of the 2022 JBS Haldane award.

Professor Fay graduated from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in Genetics and Plant Breeding, and then carried out research on genetic resources in clover for his PhD at the Welsh Plant Breeding Station (now Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University).  After two years working for the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International as a Scientific Information Officer, he moved to Kew (where he still works) in 1986, as Head of the Micropropagation Unit.  In 1995, Mike established a program in Conservation Genetics in the Jodrell Laboratory.  Subsequently, he became Head of Genetics, and is now Senior Research Leader in Conservation Genetics and Molecular Ecology.

For many years, Mike’s research has focused on the application of genetic and other data in the formulation of conservation management plans, working extensively with Natural England and other organisations.  Major projects include population genetics of orchids and studies of polyploidy, hybridization and apomixis in endemic whitebeams and rowans (Sorbus species).

Mike has published > 220 publications in peer-reviewed journals, and he is joint author of Plant of the World – An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Vascular Plants (2017).  He has been Chair of the Orchid Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of IUCN since 2006 and Chief Editor of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society since 2008.

Mike’s interest in genetics extends beyond his professional life, and he is a keen amateur genealogist.


  • Bicentenary Medal, Linnean Society, 2000
  • Individual Merit Promotion, 2011 (to date)
  • Adjunct Professorship, University of Western Australia, 2016 (to date)

Professor Fay will present the JBS Haldane Lecture on the 17th November at the Royal Institute, London.

Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2021 – Robert Hillary

I am delighted to have received the Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize.  I want to extend my gratitude to the Genetics Society and the University of Birmingham.  I would also like to thank my brilliant PhD supervisors Dr Riccardo Marioni, Dr Kathryn Evans, Prof Craig Ritchie, Prof Ian Deary and thesis chair Prof Caroline Hayward who nominated me for this award.  I feel very fortunate to have had such supportive supervisors and mentors to guide me through my PhD and beyond.

I embarked on a Wellcome-funded PhD programme in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh.  My PhD thesis was titled: ‘A multi-omics approach to understand the role of plasma proteins in cognitive ageing and dementia’.  The overarching aim of my work was to determine whether blood-based molecular markers can predict dementia risk.  First, I performed genome- and epigenome-wide association studies on the levels of over 400 blood proteins measured in either The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 or Generation Scotland.  I applied these data to causal analysis methods and found a small number of blood proteins whose levels might causally associate with dementia risk.  Second, I showed that an existing blood-based predictor of mortality termed ‘DNAm GrimAge’ robustly associated with multiple measures of brain health but did not associate with the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

I am now working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer, Edinburgh and hope to pursue a fellowship to continue my work in molecular epidemiology and common disease.

2022 Awards

Image: Frank Hailer

Mendel Medal 2022 – Professor Azim Surani and Professor Davor Solter

JBS Haldane Lecture 2022 – Dr Mike Fay, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Genetics Society Medal 2022 – Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Francis Crick Institute, London

Mary Lyon Medal 2022 – Professor Irene Miguel-Aliaga, MRC LMS

Balfour Lecture 2022 – Dr Sam Behjati, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge

Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2020/21 – Dr Robert Hillary, University of Edinburgh


Mather Memorial Prize 2017/18

The Genetics Society and The University of Birmingham are delighted to announce Rosina Savisaar as the winner of the 2017/18 Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize.

Rosina’s recently completed thesis (that includes four publications) was submitted for consideration by her PhD Supervisor, Laurence Hurst, in a field of stiff competition from several other universities.

Rosina will be awarded her prize and present a precis of her work at the 2020 Pop Group meeting at the University of Leicester.