Mike Stratton is the Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Chief Executive Officer of the Wellcome Genome Campus. His primary research interests have been in the genetics of cancer. His early research focused on inherited susceptibility. Mike mapped and identified the major high-risk breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA2 and subsequently a series of moderate-risk breast cancer and other cancer susceptibility genes. In 2000 Mike initiated the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Sanger Institute which conducts systematic genome-wide searches for somatic mutations in human cancer. Through these studies he discovered somatic mutations of the BRAF gene in malignant melanoma and several other mutated cancer genes in lung, renal, breast and other cancers. He has described the basic patterns of somatic mutation in cancer genomes revealing underlying DNA mutational and repair processes. Mike is a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and was Knighted by the Queen in 2013.
Sequencing of thousands of human cancer genomes has provided a comprehensive view of the landscapes of somatic mutation in cancer cells. By contrast, our knowledge of the somatic mutation landscape of normal human cells has been rudimentary until recently. The advent of improved sequencing technologies has, however, now demonstrated that different normal cell types have different somatic mutation rates, different contributions from multiple mutational signatures/processes, and different proportions of cells with driver mutations. This landscape can be reshaped by acquired and inherited disease processes in which normal cells become entrapped. Moreover, the mutation burden is usually much lower than in cancers arising from the same cell type, which usually have recruited additional mutational processes. These studies provide insights into a fundamental normal biological process of living organisms, into the earliest stages of cancer development and into the responses of normal cells to disease.