• NHS England

Whole Genome Sequencing: Decoding the Language of Life and Health

Learn how whole genome sequencing works and what it could mean for the future of healthcare with this free online course.

28,148 enrolled on this course

Blue grids of A, C, T and Ds
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Whole genome sequencing is a relatively new technology that allows us to ‘read’ a person’s or organism’s entire genetic code. But how does it work and what does it mean for all of us? How do scientists and clinicians begin to make sense of the vast amount of information that whole genome sequencing provides? And how will this new sequencing technology be used for the benefit of both patients in the new NHS Genomic Medicine Service in England and those with infectious diseases such as Covid-19?

Learn how genome sequencing works

This course will take you behind the scenes to explore this technology and its power to revolutionise healthcare around the world. You will be given a unique insight into modern genomics laboratories and state of the art sequencing facilities, led by the doctors and scientists who are regularly using whole genome sequencing to shape decisions about patient care and appropriate treatments.

You will be introduced to - or have a recap on - the fundamentals of DNA and genetic variation, before exploring the process of whole genome sequencing and the ways in which the resultant data can be analysed and used to benefit patients. Leading scientists and genomics experts will explore the potential and limitations of this new technology, and the ethical questions that arise when we can ‘read a person’s genome’.

Explore how whole genome sequencing affects healthcare

Throughout the course you will be introduced to a range of case studies and scenarios where whole genome sequencing is having a profound impact on healthcare, including in the fields of cancer, rare disease and infectious disease. You will also be given the most up to date information about the transition to the new NHS Genomic Medicine Service in England and the way in which the pioneering 100,000 Genomes Project has paved the way for this exciting new service.

What topics will you cover?

  • The composition, structure and function of a genome.
  • The process and the importance of DNA replication.
  • Genomic variation and its connections with health and disease.
  • The evolution of genome sequencing.
  • The advent and the possibilities of next generation sequencing.
  • The preparation and processing of DNA samples in whole genome sequencing.
  • The interpretation of genomic information for clinicians and patients.
  • The limitations and challenges faced by current sequencing technologies.
  • Additional, incidental and secondary findings from whole genome sequencing.
  • The ownership, storing and sharing of genomic data.
  • The impact of whole genome sequencing on healthcare in the future.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the fundamentals of genomics: what is DNA, what is a genome and how do they influence our health?
  • Describe how whole genome sequencing works: its principles, processes, limitations and possibilities.
  • Describe a range of concrete cases and scenarios where whole genome sequencing is having a profound impact on healthcare.
  • Engage in the debate surrounding the future of whole genome sequencing.
  • Describe the scope of the UK government’s 100,000 Genomes Project and its potential impact on how we understand and care for patients with rare diseases, cancer and infectious diseases.

Who is the course for?

The course has been designed for healthcare professionals and science/medical students who have limited or no understanding of the who genome sequencing process and its many varied uses. Non-specialists who want to learn more about sequencing and genomic medicine are also very welcome.

You don’t need an in-depth knowledge of genetics, as this course will provide a recap on the basics. The course is designed in such a way that you can move as quickly or slowly as you wish; so, while some scientific knowledge will be beneficial, the course is open to anyone who wants to learn about whole genome sequencing and its impact in healthcare.

If you’re a healthcare professional, you may find it useful to upgrade this course to support your continuing professional development (CPD). By upgrading, you’ll be able to take this course at your own pace and revisit the material at any time in future. Once you complete the course, you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement as evidence of your CPD. This includes details of what you learnt and the number of learning hours required.

What do people say about this course?

"Wonderful course! Something that every patient and clinician should at least find some time to do!"

"I've gained a much better appreciation of what genome sequencing is, the complexities of interpretation, and the moral decisions surrounding this advancing technology."

Who will you learn with?

I am the Associate Scientific Director of Health Education England's Genomics Education Programme. I am also a Consultant Clinical Scientist in Genomics at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

I am the Associate Director, Learning and Training at Wellcome Connecting Science. I have a PhD in genetics education and have worked 13+ years developing and delivery genetics and genomics education.

I am a Principal Clinical Scientist in Familial Cancer and Molecular Pathology at the West Midlands Regional Genetics Service in Birmingham and am an educator for the Whole Genome Sequencing course.

I am Content Producer in the Wellcome Genome Campus Public Engagement team where I coordinate a range of projects to engage different audiences with genomics and the research on campus.

I am an Education and Development Officer for the Genomics Education Programme. I have a background in research where I studied DNA replication and repair.

Who developed the course?

NHS England

The Workforce, Training and Education (WT&E) directorate of NHS England (NHSE) ensures the NHS in England has a sufficient and inclusive workforce with the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours to deliver compassionate high-quality health and care to the people it serves.

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
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Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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