Earlier this year we lost a valued colleague and outstanding scientist, when Dr Andy Sims died as a result of melanoma in May 2021. Andy led a research team at the Institute of Cancer and Genetics at the University of Edinburgh where he took on the challenge of trying to make sense of the enormous amounts of data that are now generated about the genetic make-up of our cancers. His Applied Bioinformatics of Cancer group covered a broad spectrum of projects looking at the data behind how known risk factors and preventative interventions for cancer actually impart their effects on the population, and how we treat patients to ensure the best possible outcomes. Andy was passionate about helping biologists to understand computers and equally about getting computational experts interested in biology. In this he excelled – he was an excellent collaborator, patient and generous with his time, and his positivity and enthusiasm were inspirational.
Andy graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences after which his early career focused on bacteria from Antarctica, viral diagnostics and trying to better understand the secretory pathway in filamentous fungi to improve yields of useful proteins at a biotech company in the US. Following his PhD he developed an interest in breast cancer while at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research at the Christie Hospital in Manchester. He continued his research in breast cancer when he moved back to Edinburgh in 2008 to establish his own research group at the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre. Over time his expertise and willingness to help others meant that he provided support for many people at all stages of their career working in several different disease areas. Andy sat on the Breast Cancer Now Scientific Advisory Board from 2013 to 2017 and dedicated time to reviewing research proposals and making recommendations for funding, while also helping with their fund-raising activities.
In 2019 he became Director of Taught Education and Learning at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer which reflected his desire to support and mentor young up and coming scientists. His ability to encourage and enthuse his students was a wonderful quality that many can only aspire to. He also devoted time to inspire future scientists by speaking to school students, and to educating and raising awareness of cancer by hosting tours of the lab, including a tour for a patient advocate group from LBCUK in 2019 which was enjoyed by all.
Andy was honoured with a College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine’s Head of College Staff Recognition Award for Exceptional Service in 2021 in appreciation and celebration of his outstanding contribution not only to cancer research, but also to student teaching and mentoring, and his outreach activities.
His death is a huge loss not only to the breast cancer community – he will be greatly missed by his family and friends, University colleagues and the wider cancer research community. His legacy will endure through his research achievements and through all of us who have benefited from knowing him. He will be remembered fondly and his great smile will always be with us.