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Meet Gavin Fuller, principal clinical scientist, rare disease team

Gavin Fuller was appointed as principal clinical scientist for the rare disease team within Cambridge Genomic Laboratory earlier this year. Here, Gavin explains what his role entails and why he enjoys his job.

Gavin Fuller at his computer
Gavin Fuller, principal clinical scientist, rare disease team

Following a promotion, Gavin is responsible for scientists specialising in paediatrics. He ensures that his team delivers an excellent and timely service for NHS patients undergoing genomic tests.

His role now involves a greater emphasis on staff training and quality management processes. ‘At least half of my time is taken up with quality issues, such as assessing scientists’ competencies, overseeing training of staff, and investigating corrective and preventive actions (CAPAs) to help continually improve on issues across the Rare Disease team,’ explained Gavin. His day-to-day work also encompasses checking genomic test data and authorising lab reports.

Following a degree in Medical Sciences and a Masters in Assisted Reproduction Technology, Gavin began his NHS career as a band 5 Genetic Technologist in January 2015 carrying out genomic tests in the laboratory. He then completed the in-house Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS) Route 2 training to obtain the ACS Certificate of Attainment and subsequent registration with the Health & Care Professions Council-UK (HCPC) as a clinical scientist. He has developed a particular interest in genomic testing for severe early-onset obesity.

Gavin has witnessed the revolution of genomic medicine first-hand.

My academic background was not solely in genetics, so I didn’t fully appreciate the pace at which genomic testing is evolving until I began working in the lab.

Gavin Fuller

The challenge of rapid evolution and change within genomics are enjoyable aspects of the job for Gavin. ‘I am constantly learning. There are always new techniques coming along so a role in the Genomic Laboratory is ideal for anyone who embraces and enjoys change,’ he explained.

The pace of change will only increase going forward and Gavin predicts, for example, greater and earlier use of whole genome sequencing (WGS) for a wider range of clinical indications as the supporting technology develops and the associated costs fall. ‘The technology is there, but not fully rolled out yet’, he said, and continued: ‘I also expect to see a lot more first-line rapid genetic testing at patients’ bedsides. This will become routine, particularly in areas such as pharmacogenomics – how a person’s genes affect their response to medications.’

For Gavin, job satisfaction comes from finding a diagnosis for a family that may have already undergone extensive testing but not had a clear explanation of unexplained symptoms.

The most appealing part of my job is finding an answer.

Gavin Fuller

There can, however, also be difficulties, especially for families with very sick children: ‘These situations are a lot more challenging, but we hope that genomic tests will provide some answers and find ways to help these families by giving them options in their lives,’ he added.

Gavin is excited about the possibilities within his new role. ‘I would like to progress within the department and eventually take up a consultant clinical scientist position’, he explained. This would involve further study to complete Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST), a five-year workplace-based training programme supported by a Doctoral level academic award.