April showers and May flowers notwithstanding, the Sanger Centre learned that more prosaic November showers bring … well, floods. That Sanger was built on a flood plain didn’t help. “The river that goes just past us had burst its banks,” says Tim Hubbard, the center’s director of genomic analysis. “It flooded the whole area. … We had the fire brigade pumping water out, but this didn’t stop it from getting into the ground floor of the building.”
Sangerites rose to the challenge. Eager to protect their ground floor treasures — a store of ABI Prism 3700s and their connected computers, sample freezers, and refrigerators — employees carted the heavy equipment to the elevator and up to dry quarters on the second floor. Before the computers could be moved, though, “the water really came in and the lifts were turned off,” Hubbard recalls. Not to be outdone, the Sanger employees formed a human chain and passed the PCs and terminals hand over hand, stair by stair to join the 3700s upstairs.
The flooding prompted concerns about falling behind in the center’s breakneck pace to sequence portions of the human and mouse genome, but the result was just a two-day downturn in production. “I think we had a record month,” Hubbard laughs.
—Marian Moser Jones