Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/13/2012

David Adams, Ph.D., Class of 2002
Group Leader,
Experimental Cancer Genetics Group,
 Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

It’s been an amazing ten years since those magical days at the International Achievement Summit in Dublin, Ireland. I left for Dublin within months of arriving at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, a world-leading center dedicated to the analysis of genomes, having only just completed my Ph.D. at Sydney University in Australia. The meeting in Dublin was surreal. I remember on the first night sitting down next to delegates from Harvard and MIT, with Francis Collins — a leader of the human genome project — to my left, and the Nobel Laureate Jim Watson — who resolved the structure of the DNA helix — to my right. On returning to Cambridge, I really struggled to convince others that this had indeed happened. I also have fond memories of drinking red wine with Sir Paul Nurse, whose fundamental discoveries include the identification of key elements of the cell cycle, which is critically important for development and cancer. Listening to Bill Clinton and Hamid Karzai at a time when the war in Afghanistan was at its height is something that will always stay with me, as will meeting Bono from U2.

Since the Summit I have joined the Faculty of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, where I lead the Experimental Cancer Genetics group, which aims to identify genes that, when mutated, contribute to cancer development. I also lead the Mouse Genomes Project and the Mouse Genetics Project, large international efforts that use genetically engineered mice to understand how genes contribute to disease. My life now couldn’t be more different from my upbringing in rural Australia, and I am fortunate to travel the world talking about my research and contributing to the fight against cancer. I have also become a father, and this keeps me grounded and very busy. The message I took away from the meeting in Dublin was to be relentless about chasing your dreams, something I have lived by ever since.

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