Sanger Scandal - Media Articles


The Sanger Institute, a Cambridge-based research institute funded primarily by the Wellcome Trust, had planned to commercialize a genetics array based on African DNA samples, whistleblowers allege, which would have violated the terms of agreements for using the materials, The Times reports. Two universities in Africa have condemned any commercial endeavors using the samples, some of which came from indigenous tribes.

“This conduct of the Wellcome Sanger Institute raises serious legal and ethical consequences,” Stellenbosch University in South Africa wrote to Sanger Director Mike Stratton in March, according to The Times.

Whistleblower complaints and documents reviewed by the news outlet indicate that Sanger had discussed a deal with Thermo Fisher to sell an array for investigating the genetic influence behind diseases in Africa and had 75,000 produced. Yet, according to The Times, the DNA samples used in the design of the arrays were obtained with the promise that they would be studied for insights into human evolution and not for the development of products or for medical research. Ultimately, the arrays were never sold, and Sanger denies any wrongdoing.

“Relationships with some African partners in a particular project were disrupted. The cause of concern was a potential commercialisation proposal from an individual working at the institute,” a Sanger spokesperson tells The Times. “The institute did not pursue this proposal.”

On Twitter, geneticist Deepti Gurdasani writes that she is one of the whistleblowers and claims that she lost her job after she filed her complaint. “It’s great to see the silence around this being broken. Myself, and another whistleblower were dismissed after we raised concerns about this to senior management at the Sanger Institute and Jeremy Farrar at the Wellcome Trust. Eight more people were made redundant.”

Sanger has been dealing with accusations of poor management, harassment, and the expected loss of a number of top faculty members. While Stratton has admitted that there was mismanagement at the institute, an independent investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.

(From Sanger Institute Accused of Misusing African DNA Samples by Kerry Grens, @kerrygrens)


The Wellcome Trust has invested £1.2billion into a property development project on the Sanger campus. This includes building more than 1,000 houses, it is unlikely that all those would be needed to house researchers, therefore this is most likely a property development to be used for commercial purposes. Does the Wellcome have financial interests that make them conflicted with regard to holding the Sanger to account?

The Wellcome's huge investment (£1.2bn) into this project headed by the Sanger raises serious questions regarding Wellcome's willingness to hold Sanger to account in relation to serious allegations of research ethics violations & illegality as well as for bullying of staff, despite their policy of cutting funding to institutions where bullying takes place.

Maybe the £1.2bn is why the Wellcome Trust has not commented on the ?


Major U.K. genetics lab accused of misusing African DNA

Genetics lab accused of misusing African DNA

Genetics lab told to hand back African tribes’ DNA

Allegations of commercialisation at Sanger

South African scientists demand the return of hundreds of tribal DNA samples after a British institute was accused of trying to use them to make money

Wellcome Sanger denies charge of misusing African DNA

Indigene DNA-Daten sollen zweckentfremdet worden sein

Allegations of misuse of African DNA in the UK: Will data protection legislation in South Africa be sufficient to prevent a recurrence?


Could a £1.2bn investment be the reason why the Wellcome Trust has not acted to hold the Sanger to account?

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Bosses at leading UK science institute accused of bullying staff

Wellcome Sanger Institute Leaders Accused of Bullying

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Wellcome Sanger director apologises for management failings

Sanger whistle-blowers dispute findings that cleared management of bullying

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