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Genomics facility

With state-of-the-art hardware and unrivalled expertise in the molecular characterisation of tumours, the Tumour Profiling Unit supports researchers at the ICR and our partner institutions across the UK to accelerate progress towards precision therapies. The unit provides access to a range of cutting-edge techniques for genomic, transcriptomic and epigenomic analysis. It was the first in the UK to deploy the NovaSeq genome sequencer, thanks to a collaboration with Illumina.

Dr Amanda Swain is head of the Tumour Profiling Unit

 Dr Amanda Swain, Head of the Tumour Profiling Unit.

The Tumour Profiling Unit (TPU) was established in 2013 to carry out state-of-the-art research on the genetics and molecular biology of cancers, and use that knowledge in new targeted and personalised approaches to treatment. Researchers at the unit work with scientists and clinicians at The Institute of Cancer Research and external academic groups to classify tumours by their genetics, and find ways of personalising treatment to the particular mutations that are driving them.

The TPU uses the latest next-generation genetic sequencing technologies – such as a HiSeq2500 sequencer from Illumina, and Ion Proton and PGM sequencers from Life Technologies – to carry out genomic profiling of tumours. Its highly qualified staff can provide academic groups with tailored advice on experimental design, or carry out projects from beginning to end, delivering reliable and customisable solutions for different cancer genomics projects.

The NovSeq is the latest in next-generation genome sequencing technology – bringing affordable ultra-high throughput sequencing to the ICR, and making it accessible to a broader spectrum of research disciplines.

“The TPU is a collaborative facility supporting our colleagues from project start to finish. We offer truly state-of-the-art tumour profiling technology, backed up by bespoke analyses from our in-house bioinformatics team.”

Nik Matthews 
Genomics Manager

Genomics capabilities

The genomics facility within the TPU works under Good Clinical and Laboratory Practice (GCLP) and ISO 15189:2012 guidelines to provide next-generation sequencing of tumours. The unit has a strong focus on cancer biology and clinical treatment, and its experimental workflows include the ability to sequence and analyse formalin-fixed paraffin embedded samples (FFPE), minimal amounts of DNA/RNA samples (30–50 ng), analysis of tumour clonal heterogeneity, cfDNA and drug resistance.

The TPU has the capacity to undertake large projects (ExomeSeq and WGS) and smaller-scale projects, such as target resequencing and analysis of amplicons. It uses a dedicated 480-core, high-performance computing cluster to analyse sequencing data.

Automated analysis pipelines are available for whole genome, exome and transcriptome sequencing, built around standard, open-source software. The bioinformatics team at the TPU also has the experience necessary to perform custom analyses and integration of sequencing data sets.

For more information, contact the Unit on

Division of Molecular Pathology

The division is focused on understanding the molecular alterations important in the development and progression of cancer, and in determining how the disease responds to treatment.