latest health care news

01.08.14

DNA project will transform disease diagnosis and treatment – PM

The government has backed a £300m genome project which it believes will lead to the UK becoming a groundbreaker in genetic research into cancer and rare diseases.

As part of David Cameron’s commitment to ensure the NHS, as well as the UK’s research and life science sector, is at the forefront of global advances in modern medicine, the four-year project will allow scientists to do pioneering new research to decode 100,000 human genomes – a patient’s personal DNA code.

It is hoped that by sequencing the genome of a person with cancer or someone with a rare disease will help scientists and doctors understand how disease works. The Prime Minister has also pledged that the UK will map 100,000 human genomes by 2017.

He also announced a new partnership between Genomics England and the California-based company Illumina that will deliver infrastructure and expertise to turn the plan into reality.

Cameron said: “This agreement will see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years. I am determined to do all I can to support the health and scientific sector to unlock the power of DNA, turning an important scientific breakthrough into something that will help deliver better tests, better drugs and above all better care for patients.”

As part of the deal, Illumina’s services for whole genome sequencing have been secured in a deal worth around £78m. In turn, the company will invest around £162m into the work in England over four years, creating new knowledge and jobs in the field of genome sequencing.

Responding to the latest news, NHS England CEO Simon Stevens said: “The NHS is now set to become one of the world’s ‘go-to’ health services for the development of innovative genomic tests and patient treatments, building on our long track record as the nation that brought humanity antibiotics, vaccines, modern nursing, hip replacements, IVF, CT scanners, and breakthrough discoveries from the circulation of blood to the existence of DNA.”

In addition to the Illumina deal, the government has revealed that the Wellcome Trust has invested more than £1bn in genomic research and has agreed to spend £27m on a world class sequencing hub at its Genome Campus near Cambridge. This will house Genomics England’s operations alongside those of the internationally respected Sanger Institute.

The Medical Research Council has also earmarked £24m to help provide the computing power to make sure that the data of participants will be properly analysed, interpreted and made available to doctors and researchers securely.

Sir John Chisholm, executive chair of Genomics England, said: “This is a real milestone in turning this ambitious project into what we always intended which is a world leading project capable of delivering immense benefit to current and future patients.”

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