Each year we organise several Hinxton Retreats, which are fully-funded, invitation-only meetings that promote high level scientific discussion in an informal but intensive way.

Hinxton Retreats have the following format:

  • Discussion of emerging, forward-looking and exciting areas of scientific and technical interest, including associated policy issues. 
  • Invitation-only, 2-day meetings for a maximum of 40 carefully chosen participants.
  • Emphasis on an informal and relaxed environment to encourage intense debate and discussion.
  • Hinxton Retreats aim to have a significant impact on the wider community.

Should you wish to discuss a potential topic for a Hinxton Retreat, please email Dr Rebecca Twells.

Past Retreats

Making Genomic Medicine Safe - The Process of Genetic Diagnosis and Communication of Genomic Results
10-12 October 2017

Scientific Lead
Helen Firth
Cambridge University Hospitals, UK

The simultaneous introduction of whole exon sequencing and whole genome seuencing into routine clinical practice, together with the mainstreaming of genetics, creates a situation where results of variable clinical impact and variable reliability will potentially be given to patients by clinicians who are unfamiliar with genetic reports and ill-equipped to understand and explain them. To address this issue, Health Education England has embarked on a multi-million pound educational initiative to educate the NHS workforce. Education is however only one approach to this issue and other strategies are worthy of consideration to complement this educational initiative.

The purpose of this retreat was to take a holistic approach to some of the issues relating to the communication of results from clinical genomic analysis. Including exploring the hypothesis that one approach is to issue simplified reports that do not require specialist knowledge to interpret and thence would be accessible to a well-informed patient and their clinicians.
The specific aims were:
1.     Maintaining safe diagnosis for patients when mainstreaming a powerful but immature diagnostic technology
2.   The essential requirements of a genomic test report: what information for whom? To clarify duties and liability arising from the process involved in establishing a genetic diagnosis and patient rights to genomic data
3.    Establishing patterns of work to maximize diagnostic benefit and minimize harm. Optimizing clinical/laboratory interaction and multi-disciplinary working
4.   Communication to non-specialist clinicians and patients. How to ensure clarity in reports by optimising language, terminology, design and layout?

The Global Genomics Nursing Alliance Retreat - to Accelerate Integration of Genomics into Everyday Professional Practice
23-25 January 2017

Scientific Programme Committee
Maggie Kirk University of South Wales UK
Caroline Benjamin Unviersty of Central Lancashire UK
Anna Middleton WGC, UK
Emma Tonkins University of South Wales UK
Laurie Badzek University of North Carolina USA
Kathleen Calzone NIH USA
Marina McDonald University of South Wales UK

Nurses are the largest single healthcare profession in the world. And yet, despite their numbers, policy makers will often turn to medics for leadership and direction about changes to healthcare practice. Genomics has not been systematically incorporated into nursing teaching curricula, and there have been no significant changes in nursing practice that bring genomics into day-to-day care. This retreat was organised to help address this problem.

The retreat brought key leaders in the nursing profession from across the world together to:
1.    Establish the Global Genomics Nursing (G2N) Alliance for knowledge mobilisation and action around developments in nursing and genomic healthcare, sharing ideas, expertise, and resources.
2.    Create a G2N Roadmap that lays out how to integrate genomics into nursing education, practice and research. This will benchmark progress between nursing communities, recognising real-world constraints and enablers.
3.    Agree and prioritise collaborative efforts needed to realise each dimension of the G2N Roadmap.
The Retreat generated considerable social capital to accelerate change across nursing communities, providing the impetus to improve nursing genomic health literacy, particularly where progress is slow and inconsistent, and reduce duplication of effort and burden on any one country. It is vital that this capital is harnessed and international, interdisciplinary collaboration and support is critical to success.
To follow progress since the retreat, see:

CRISPR Approaches for Apicomplexans
1-2 December 2016

Scientific programme committee
Marcus Lee
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK
Manuel Llinas
Penn State University, USA
Dominque Soldati-Favre
University of Geneva, Switzerland

The inherent difficulties in genetically manipulating parasites mean that there are real challenges in adopting any new technology. Adoption of gene editing technology has been slowed by technical problems and poor success rates in some labs that may reflect differences in reagents or experimental design, subtleties in protocols that are not apparent in the published literature, or genuine biological variability that may be dependent on factors such as the essentiality of the target or its location in the genome.

This retreat brought together the leading researchers who are implementing this technology to share our experience to move the field as a whole forward. The overall aim was to understand what factors are critical for success and, if possible, arrive at a common consensus on how we should standardise our experimental procedures across labs for more consistent success. In addition the retreat discussed:
(i) the development and implementation of genome-wide approaches to targeting parasite biology. More broadly, we considered whether a systematically-generated gene knock-out resource in P. falciparum would be of value to the community, and if so, how this might be organised and implemented through an international collaborative effort.
(ii) the application of adapted CRISPR technology to efforts that could be broadly termed “genome targeting”. Such approaches employ repurposed Cas9 to deliver gene repression or activation domains, fluorescent proteins, or other functionalities to distinct sites on the genome. Although considerable progress in these areas has been made using mammalian systems, the evolutionary divergence of Apicomplexan parasites means that many of these functions are not easily transplantable. We also discussed the development of parasite-specific transcriptional activators, and how parasite histone modifying domains might be adapted for Cas9-driven local modification of chromatin structure to repress or activate gene expression.

Defining the UK Roadmap for Biomedical Metabolic Phenotyping
10-11 October 2016

Scientific programme committee
Mika Ala-Korpela University of Bristol, UK
Valerie O'Donnell Cardiff University, UK
Jeremy Nicholson Imperial College London, UK
Professor Naveed Sattar University of Glasgow, UK
Mark Viant University of Birmingham, UK

During the past decade the UK has built analytical and informatics national capabilities to support large-scale metabolic phenotyping projects. Many institutions have established metabolomics facilities to conduct in house and collaborative analysis. However, in part due to its rapid growth and also the highly multidisciplinary nature of this field, the UK metabolic phenotyping landscape, in terms of end users, remains fragmented. There is a significant growing need amongst our biomedical, epidemiological and clinical researchers to access metabolomics analysis for their studies, but for most setting up a platform in house is not practical or advisable. Many utilise different platforms and approaches, and no common standards in terms of analytical approaches or processing workflows currently exist, although the international Phenome Centre network (driven from the UK) is redefining that landscape.

The overall aim of this retreat was to bring together clinical, epidemiological and biomedical scientists, technologists, bioinformaticians, chemometricians/biostatisticians, industry scientists, trainers and funders to: (i) raise awareness of, and to define current needs for metabolic phenotyping; (ii) raise awareness of existing state-of-the-art UK national capability for metabolic phenotyping; (iii) identify grand challenges for clinical and basic metabolic research; and (iv) define a program of research, technology development and training provision, that is a Roadmap for Biomedical Metabolic Phenotyping in the UK.

Mechanisms to Reverse the Public Health Neglect of Snakebite Victims
22-23 September 2015

Scientific programme committee
José-María Gutiérrez Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica
Robert Harrison Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK

Snakebite is a WHO-listed Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD). Each year it kills ~95,000 people residing in some of the world’s most disadvantaged subsistence farming communities, and leaves 2-300,000 survivors with permanent physical disabilities. Snakebite, like the other NTDs, is both a cause and consequence of tropical poverty, but is neglected by many governments and international health agencies. This retreat was designed to start reversing this neglect by identifying, and initiating, mechanisms to reduce the high rates of death and disability currently suffered by tropical snakebite victims.

We sought to combine the knowledge, experience and commitment of physicians, scientists and non-academics working on tropical snakebite with the fiscal, political and advocacy power of representatives from funding agencies, Governments, International Health agencies, medical charities and biotech/pharmaceutical companies to achieve the following objectives:
1.    Identify new research, and public health collaborative mechanisms through which we can substantially reduce snakebite mortality and morbidity.
2.    Identify options for funding these new collaborative initiatives.
3.    Identify means by which we can get snakebite issues included as priorities for International Health Agencies – as a minimum to persuade the 2016 WHO assembly to re-instate snakebite as a WHO priority NTD.
4.    Prepare ‘position papers’ for publication in journals whose readership includes policy makers in tropical Governments and International Health agencies, and the snakebite community.

Devising a Consensus Framework for Validation of Novel Human Coding Loci
11-13 May 2015

Scientific programme committee
Jen Harrow Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK
Elspeth Bruford European Bioinformatics Institute, UK
Amos Bairoch NeXtProt, Switzerland
Lydie Lane NeXtProt, Switzerland

The chromosome-centric Human Proteome  Project  (c-HPP) is a large multidisciplinary international effort to catalogue human gene products, focusing on so-called ‘missing proteins’, those which have little evidence at the protein level. Aprox 18 % of the human proteome lacks evidence at the protein level. This retreat brought together experts from the fields of genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and representatives from the major human genome and protein databases, to establish guidelines to validate human protein products. In addition set of standard guidelines were developed that the biocuration and scientific community can use to determine the evidence required to a novel coding loci being added or removed from the reference human gene sets (UniProt, GENCODE and RefSeq).

Developing Clinical Biomarkers for Mitochondrial Disease for Therapeutic Trials
27-28 April 2015

Scientific programme committee
Patrick Chinnery University of Newcastle, UK
Jan Smeitink Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Mike Murphy University of Cambridge, UK

Recent advances in understanding the mechanisms of mitochondrial diseases have led to the development of new treatment approaches that show real promise in animal models. The field has also come together to assemble genetically defined cohorts of patients, ready for interventional studies. However, there are a limited number of clinically-relevant biomarkers available to assess disease progression before or during treatment. The aim of this retreat was to bring together experts to help break down the biomarker ‘road-block’ and lead to well-informed treatment trials.

Translational Genomics Initiative: Interpretation of Genomic Variation for Clinical Diagnosis
27-28 April 2015

Scientific programme committee
Helen Firth University of Cambridge, UK
Caroline Wright Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK)
Daniel MacArthur Harvard Medical School, USA

One of the major problems facing clinical implementation of next -generating sequencing is the gap between the capacity to generate sequence data and our ability to accurately interpret it. Traditionally, genetic diagnosis was offered to a small group of patients in whom a Mendelian disorder was strongly suspected. Testing for more genetically heterogeneous conditions was not feasible in terms of cost and time. NGS has transformed this situation but in so doing as created several new challenges. The aim of this retreat was to establish guidelines for clinical diagnosis that identify and attempt to categorise and quantify some of these parameters in order to optimise the diagnostic opportunity afforded by WES/WGS whilst minimising the risk of misdiagnosis.

Protein Bioinformatics and Community Resources

11-12 August 2014

Scientific programme committee
Patsy Babbitt University of California, San Francisco, USA
Alex Bateman EMBL-EBI, UK

Many databases exist that provide information on particular classes of proteins. The majority of these databases focus on curating fundamental molecular data about proteins, often linking sequence, structure and function features relevant to a broad range of fields that include molecular biology, biomedicine and biotechnology. As new data emerges and data is increasingly being integrated for greater impact and predictive power, we aim to bring these diverse community resources together to explore how interactions with each other could improve all and contribute more effectively to users. The retreat was organised to help define the state-of-the-art in sequence classification, nomenclature, and other relevant features relevant to protein database resources and share best practices for improving information content and dissemination.

Literature – Data Integration

10-11 December 2013

Scientific programme committee
Ewan Birney EMBL-EBI, UK
Thomas Lemberger EMBO, Germany
Jo McEntyre EMBL-EBI, UK
Ian Mulvany eLIfe, UK

Increasingly, biological science is being driven by big data - in terms of both consumption and generation. While most core data types are served by structured public databases, there is a growing trend in the generation of unstructured datasets that do not fit these models. The aim of this meeting was to discuss how journals, structured databases, and emerging systems for managing unstructured datasets engage to provide the most useful information landscape in support of scientific research. New developments and perspectives on this theme were presented by journal publishers/editors and established and emerging database managers. Potential working practices and synergies between these data resources were also explored.

International Coordination for Large Scale iPSCs Initiatives
24-26 November 2013

Scientific programme committee
Christine Mummery Leiden University, The Netherlands
Mahandra Rao NIH, USA
Ludovic Vallier University of Cambridge, UK

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have numerous clinical applications ranging from in vitro models of disease, drug-screening protocols, regenerative medicine, to patient-specific cell-based therapies. Several international large-scale consortia have been created to deliver on the clinical promises of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSCs). The main objective of this retreat was to bring the leaders of these programs together to focus on the technical aspects of hIPSC generation/application and to discuss how these large-scale initiatives can be best coordinated to maximise the resources available. The meeting combined technical and strategic discussions of the following areas: Applications of large-scale hIPSC collections; Technical challenges of large-scale derivation of hIPSCs; Intellectual property associated with reprogramming and commercial reagents; Ethics associated with patient recruitment for hIPSC derivation; Cell-based therapy; and Coordination of patient collections, open resources and repositories.




2018-19 POSTER