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Let's beat cancer sooner

It’s been an ambitious and challenging project but the day to unveil it to the world has arrived.

We’re delighted today to launch Genes in Space – a unique and enjoyable game that you can download and play for free on your smart phone:

It’s a game, so first and foremost it’s fun to play – boring train journeys, queues for that gig or waiting for that friend who’s always late could be transformed into exhilarating space adventures.

But that’s not the exciting bit.

Well it is. But there’s more. Much more.

By downloading and playing this pioneering game, you will be taking part in research to help beat cancer. It might sound far-fetched, but it’s true.

We’ve been working with our scientists and gaming experts for months to build the game, which on the surface is a simple and entertaining caper through space. But underneath it’s a data crunching powerhouse that’s helping our scientists identify the DNA faults that could lead to cancer.

Here’s a little teaser of the game:

Element Alpha: real data

In the game, you take the helm of a spaceship to collect valuable and powerful ‘Element Alpha’. The stroke of genius is that in doing so you are actually helping our scientists to analyse piles of real life data.

That’s because the game is actually a fun interface to allow the public to assist our scientists in the serious business of spotting patterns in gigabytes of genetic information from thousands of tumours.

There’s lots more information about the fascinating science behind the game in this post. But in a nutshell, by finding the best route to pick up the most Element Alpha, you’re actually plotting a course through genuine ‘DNA microarray’ data.

Behind the scenes, the code of the game translates real microarray data like this…:

Microarray data

Microarray data

…into this:

Mapping a journey through space

Mapping a journey through space

No expertise required

The game’s ingenuity lies in its simplicity. Racking up the combined data crunching power of what we hope will be thousands of casual gamers will help our scientists spot the subtle patterns and peaks and troughs in the data, which correspond to DNA faults.

The power of Element Alpha is of course completely fictional, but the power of the data it represents could be exceptional. Our scientists will be trawling through the results as they come in and looking for crucial clues in the quest for new cancer treatments.

So what are you waiting for? Start collecting mysterious Element Alpha to help us solve the mystery of cancer sooner.

Download the game 

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Chris April 24, 2014

It’s OK but I have two serious questions. A human can see a peak and trough, a computer can be programmed to recognise more or less white space. So why don’t you just program a computer to do that? Secondly, Just give us the array to plot for you, we don’t need a game in the way slowing us down. Remember SETI’s app? Make a Desktop app that crunches the numbers for you. Millions would leave their Machines on to crunch the numbers if you’re lacking computing power.

Jah Rastafari April 24, 2014

Honest Question. Why cant a computer program be written to automatically draw these lines?

Peter Leinweber April 23, 2014

I’ve really been enjoying this game, and is an oncology nurse I really appreciate it even exists. If I were asking, I would request two things:

1) unless it plays some actual role in you crunching data I would like the option to turn the asteroid fields off. I enjoy the harvest much more, even if that means slower leveling.

2) the stability is very bad if the game is interrupted by any messaging or phone interruptions and usually requires logging all the way back in.

Danica April 23, 2014

I am loving this game! However, I would like to know the benefits of each upgrade and what a second ship does so I can weigh up the options of my purchases

User April 23, 2014

This needs to be on Windows phones too!
The idea is just too amazing

Stan April 23, 2014

I spend too much time playing mobile games and this one is fun. It’s nice to know that my time wasted isn’t actually wasted when I play this.

Kristine April 22, 2014

Hello! This is a great effort – well done!

I’m actually more interested in drawing lines through the data instead of flying my spaceship and shooting asteroids, etc.

Is it possible of publishing an app that features just the Route Mapping screen? It’ll be much quicker and gentler on my phone without the game portion!

Thank you!

Daniel April 22, 2014

It would be cool if you could improve the instructions on app, needed to google this page so i could find that the valuable things were the peaks and changes on the route mapping/dna microarray, and maybe a way to re read the improved instructions, but well, the effort is great, love you guys.

Marcus April 22, 2014

Well port it for PC or develop something equivalent (probably better) and i will play the heck out of it. I guess the progress of research could be significantly increased in this way since calculations can be done much faster on for example CUDA architecture or even a simple dual/quad core processor.

Lugia kane April 11, 2014

Why cant this game be on blackberry world as i have playbook shame really none for windows or mac shame lugia kane

Owl April 5, 2014

Cool idea to use gamer’s energy to develop science! :-)
Can you add some more description of what does upgrade of different parts improove? And add some numbers characteristics of upgrades (like 1st lvl gun – 1 shots/sec, 2nd lvl gun – 1.5 shots/sec)
And add, pls, “are you sure?” dialog when pressing Reset button on the mapping window. (Had pressed it several times ocasionaly)

Kat Arney March 31, 2014

Thanks for your feedback – it’s really useful and our developers are taking all of it on board.

PlayerSlotAvailable March 31, 2014

This is a great idea, the game is fun and looks good.
My only recommendation is that if it were possible, bring out a non ‘game’ version, allowing the microarray data to be scanned even faster. It is my believe that although the game is enticing , the ship upgrades and asteroid field is time consuming and unnecessary.

geri March 28, 2014

Too difficult for me to figure out how to play it from the instructions given.

Dave Tavener March 21, 2014

Can you make it available on normal pc running windows

Kel March 19, 2014

Could you make it available on Windows Phone?

Martin March 17, 2014

Do you plan to make it available at the App Shop of Amazon?

Me March 16, 2014

Great idea!

Is there a possibility to even just analyse the data without even playing the spaceship game?
I guess there are people who would like to volunteer but don’t like that kind of spaceship adventure (like me). :-)

Simon March 14, 2014

I want to download this, but do not want to have to create another way for google to harvest my data by having to create an account with them. Any chance of putting this on Microsoft games for Windows Phone? Or at least make it so I do not have to register.

Nicky Dietrich March 13, 2014

It doesn’t download. It plays a video, but doesn’t download the game. I gave up. You need to make it easy to access, or give better instructions.

Kathryn Jarvinen March 3, 2014

This seems to be a great idea!

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Colin February 22, 2014

Will there be a BlackBerry version? Bb10 devices can run most android apps but this one doesn’t work. Says it can’t download required data.

Tim February 21, 2014

I would just like to be able to zoom in at stage 1 when I am mapping (big fingers, inaccurate screen) because I rarely can put my “dot” exactly where I want it

At the second stage, I just have lag with the gyroscope and cant work the other style of control so perhaps I would rather do this on a PC rather than a smart phone.