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The Saunders Genetics Lecture 2020

The Saunders Genetics Lecture will be held on Monday 24th February 2020, 4:30pm to 5:30pm at the Babbage Lecture Theatre in the David Attenborough Building, New Museums Site.  Location of the David Attenborough Building can be found by searching on the University map.

All are invited to attend the lecture and while there will be no charge for attending, please note we cannot offer any assistance with travelling expenses or accommodation. 

E SaundersThis will be the second of a prestigious series of lectures held in commemoration of the life and work of Edith Rebecca (Becky) Saunders who made major contributions to the understanding of genetics and heredity at the beginning of the 20th century.  Saunders entered Newnham College in 1884, continued her postgraduate research as a Bathurst student from 1888 to 1889, and later became the director of the Balfour Biological Laboratory for Women in 1899.  She was Director of Studies for Natural Sciences at Newnham between 1918 and 1925 and President of the Genetical Society from 1936-1938.
The Saunders Genetics Lectures celebrates the best contemporary research in Genetics today, with invited speakers being selected for their contribution to research which resonates with the activities of the Department of Genetics and across the School of Biological Sciences.

L PartridgeWe are delighted to welcome Professor Dame Linda Partridge, Director of the Institute of Healthy Ageing at UCL and the founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany as our speaker for the 2020 Saunders Lecture.  The title of Linda’s talk is “Can we cure ageing?”.


Human life expectancy has been increasing steadily in most parts of the world, and we do not know what the limits to human lifespan will prove to be. This improvement in human health is to be celebrated, but it is also revealing ageing to be the major risk factor for multiple age-related diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions. There is therefore increasing interest in the idea that we might intervene in the ageing process itself to prevent multiple age-related conditions simultaneously. Surprisingly, ageing has proved to be a malleable process. Health during ageing can be increased and lifespan extended by genetic and environmental interventions. Some of these, such as dietary restriction and reduced activity of nutrient-sensing signaling networks, can ameliorate the effects of ageing in diverse organisms, possibly including humans. Signalling networks that are responsive to nutrition affect many aspects of organismal function, and altering their activity can therefore have many side-effects, not all of them desirable. In addition, there is extensive feedback in the networks, both within and between different tissues. Understanding the modulations of signalling that can improve health with fewest side-effects is therefore an important goal. This talk will discuss some of the recent discoveries, including the prospect for re-purposing existing drugs to protect against the effects of ageing. The findings are pointing to the prospect of a broad spectrum, preventative medicine for the diseases of human ageing.


A recording of the 2018 Inaugural Saunders Lecture by Professor Richard Lenski can be found here.