The Wellcome Trust Centre For Mitochondrial Research

Animation + Documentary

Newcastle University's WTCMR has gained a worldwide reputation for advancing understanding of the devastating condition, Mitochondrial Disease. In 2015 the centre's director, Professor Sir Doug Turnbull, asked us to create a series of videos that would help people to understand more about the disease and its impact on patients.

Mitochondrial Disease affects 1 in 5000 people, so it is classified as a rare disease but it is one that has a devastating impact on thousands of families in the UK. It is an inherited disease that can cause a variety of problems from hearing and speech issues, to heart conditions and even death. It was our job to help people understand this little recognised condition and we thought the best way to do this would be through an animated explainer video.

Although Mitochondrial Disease is a very serious condition the team were keen that it should avoid being too gloomy and pessimistic, so we chose to deliver the message with a lightness of tone and brightness of style that went down well with patient and carer focus groups who were shown the animation both during production and after it was launched.

Patient Story Documentaries

The opportunity to portray the harder side of the disease came with a series of documentary portraits that we filmed with mitochondrial patients and family members.

The videos are absolutely brilliant and will be a great addition to the website. I still can’t watch the Patient Story films without a tear in my eye, and everyone I have shown them to is the same. You have caught the emotion, tragedy and optimism brilliantly.
— Professor Sir Doug Turnbull

After years of campaigning by Prof Sir Doug Turnbull and his team the UK government finally gave permission in 2017 for a pioneering 'three-parent-baby' fertility procedure - mitochondrial donation - to take place, which it is hoped could halt the transmission of the disease from one generation to the next, preventing the recurrence of tragic stories like that of Beth and Caspar (above).

After the new legislation came into being the Centre has approached us again about their new Reproductive Advice Clinic that will give women with Mitochondrial Disease and their partners the opportunity to find out about all the available options to them if they are thinking of starting a family. The clinic team commissioned us to create a series of new films for the clinic. The first was an animation explaining the care pathway open to women thinking of using the clinic.

And the second was a short documentary video telling the story of one woman hoping to take advantage of the new mitochondrial donation technique.

And the third was a video introducing the clinic and its staff to prospective users of the service.