Together we will beat cancer


Watch a video about Genes in Space on YouTube

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 


.? June 22, 2014

Played 2 games and deleted it, didn’t understand what I was doing couldn’t find a tutorial. On my first attempt I put loads of markers down, are these supposed to be what you fly through?
The spaceship flight bit seemed pointless and tedious, are you supposed to run out of bullets and fly into the white bits? I ran out of bullets and kept hitting asteroids.
How do you sift out little kids or simple adults like me who haven’t got a clue what they are supposed to be doing and tapping the screen like mad from useful data?

Nick Peel May 6, 2014

Thank you all for playing Genes in Space and helping to beat cancer sooner! We’re aware of the problem on the Route Mapping screen and are working to fix this as soon as we can. In the meantime, you could try another way of analysing cancer data at while we get this fixed.

Nick Peel, Cancer Research UK

Donna May 5, 2014

I loved playing the game but now all I get is a blank screen on the route mapping & I can’t go any farther

Pete May 2, 2014

I emailed the developers about the blank screen problem. They said a number of people have reported it too. They’re working on a fix, so don’t give up just yet. :)

Jeff DunKley April 30, 2014

I like playing genes in space,but now it won’t let me route map.Can you please fix this.

kelly April 30, 2014

My map is also coming up blank :(

Mark April 29, 2014

Now v frustrated because I can’t play as Route Mapping screen is blank – help!

Tina April 28, 2014

Need a support page….When I get to the route mapping page, the window remains empty, I hear some beeps when I touch the screen, but the route mapping screen remains empty, touching play a second time and the game crashes. Playing on an iPhone 5S. I have deleted it the app and reloaded several times.

Gillen April 27, 2014

i have tried many times to play; i get the route mapping screen , push play , here a beep, then NO CHANGE. reset or back close the game.

Louise April 25, 2014

Brilliant idea but I do agree with better instructions and also it is not running right on the Galaxy Tab 3 – asteroids don’t show, is clunky and hard to do the flying bit – but love the idea and will continue to crunch data :)