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New online course launched to help doctors and nurses better understand how genomics can battle bacterial diseases

Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Courses and Scientific Conferences (ACSC) today announces the launch of its first online course, in partnership with FutureLearn, the leading social learning platform. The new partnership will present a free online course introducing the genomics of disease-causing bacteria, such as MRSA, E. coli and Chlamydia which infect millions of people every year.

The course, ‘Bacterial Genomes: Disease Outbreaks and Antimicrobial Resistance’ was developed in collaboration with the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge. Designed to educate healthcare professionals and biologists worldwide on how the genomes of bacteria can be used to understand, and identify and track bacterial diseases and antibiotic resistance, this is the first of a series of 10 online courses. The course is free and is open for enrolment now, with the course starting on April 30th 2018.

This 3-week introduction to pathogen genomics will be the first online course offered by ACSC and is open to anyone to join. As part of the Wellcome mission to be as accessible as possible worldwide, ACSC has sponsored this open access course to provide free enrolment and free certification. The course will take approximately 3 hours study time per week and learners can complete at their own pace.

Humans have been plagued by bacterial diseases throughout history. For example, the bacteria which causes tuberculosis (TB) killed 1.3 million people across the world last year, mainly in developing countries. These bacterial diseases are made more dangerous by the rise of antibiotic resistance, which is one of the greatest threats to human health worldwide.

Especially important for people who work in healthcare, the course will teach participants how sequencing the DNA of bacteria offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand bacterial diseases, their spread and their resistance to drugs.

Dr Estee Torok, honorary consultant physician at Addenbrooke’s hospital and researcher at the University of Cambridge, who is featured in the course, said. “There is a gap in the understanding of pathogen genomics amongst healthcare professionals in the NHS and abroad, despite the importance of genomics in tracking the spread of bacterial diseases and antibiotic resistance. This innovative, free three-week course is a great way for our medical and nursing colleagues to get up to speed on this quickly.”

Dr Rebecca Twells, Head of ACSC said: “With our long history and expertise in running face- to- face postgraduate courses and conferences, we are delighted to partner with FutureLearn to run our first online course. Developed and presented in collaboration with Dr Adam Reid and Dr Francesca Short from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Dr Josie Bryant from the University of Cambridge, this free course will enable thousands of people both here in the UK and abroad to learn about the genetics of pathogenic bacteria. This paves the way for the further courses in the series.”

Dr Adam Reid, senior staff scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute who co-designed the course, said: “Thanks to scientific advances we have powerful tools like antibiotics to combat devastating bacterial diseases such as cholera and TB. However, outbreaks continue to happen and genomic science is a vital new weapon against them.  We have specifically designed this course with ACSC to help people understand how genomics can be used to fight these bacterial pathogens.”

Helen Fuller, Healthcare lead at FutureLearn, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to collaborate with the Wellcome Genome Campus to showcase the work they’re doing in this space and share this with a global community of learners. We’re thrilled to be able to support healthcare practitioners and scientists in this way; the opportunities enabled by an online learning experience will expose learners to insights from like-minded professionals worldwide, which will better inform their practice and cement their understanding of such a complex, yet fascinating topic.”



Notes to editors:

More details about the course:  Bacterial Genomes: Disease Outbreaks and Antimicrobial Resistance

Explore the genomes of bacteria and find out how sequencing is helping us fight the spread of harmful disease and antimicrobial resistance.

The increase in resistance of harmful bacteria to antibiotics is a major global threat to health. On this course, we explore bacterial genomes and the use of genome sequencing to identify and track these drug-resistant bacteria. Join us to discover how genome research is helping scientists and healthcare professionals track disease outbreaks and prevent the rise of antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’.

You can sign up for the course here. This part-time, online course will run over three weeks and will take an average of three hours a week. It is open access, aimed at an introductory undergraduate level, and anyone with an interest in genome sequencing and bacterial disease can join. No previous knowledge of genome science or bacteria is expected.

Selected Websites

Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Courses and Scientific Conferences
Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Courses and Scientific Conferences is the only UK-based programme providing open postgraduate courses and conferences focused on biomedicine. Part of Connecting Science, we fund, develop and deliver training and conferences that span basic research, cutting-edge biomedicine and the application of genomics in healthcare.

Events are held in dedicated facilities at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, a short distance from the historic city of Cambridge and home to the world-famous Wellcome Sanger Institute and EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute.

Working with internationally-renowned scientists and healthcare professionals, we run events at the Genome Campus and in low- and middle-income countries that aim to educate, inspire and transform careers.

Wellcome Genome Campus Connecting Science

Wellcome Genome Campus Connecting Science’s mission is to enable everyone to explore genomic science and its impact on research, health and society.

We connect researchers, health professionals and the wider public, creating opportunities and spaces to explore genomic science and its impact on people. Connecting Science inspires new thinking, sparks conversation, supports learning and measures attitudes, drawing on the ground-breaking research taking place on the Wellcome Genome Campus.


“Pioneering the best social learning experiences for everyone anywhere”

Founded by The Open University in 2012, FutureLearn is a social learning platform, designed to support learning through conversation. It offers 5.7 million learners free online courses from world-leading UK and international universities, centres of research excellence and specialist education providers like the British Council, Creative Skillset and European Space Agency. FutureLearn is an international platform with over 75% of its users based outside of the UK.

Wellcome Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Sanger Institute is one of the world’s leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease. To celebrate its 25th year in 2018, the Institute is sequencing 25 new genomes of species in the UK. Find out more at or follow @sangerinstitute

Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark


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