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Hancock announces ‘bold aspiration’ to map five million genomes

Matt Hancock has announced an ambition to sequence five million genomes over the next five years.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference, the health secretary outlined “a bold aspiration” to expand the NHS Genomic Medicine Service and, within an “unprecedented” five-year period, map five million genomes in the UK.

From 2019, all seriously ill children will be offered whole genome sequencing as part of their care as well as adults with certain rare diseases and hard-to-treat cancers, as of 2019.

One million whole genomes will be sequenced by the NHS and medical research project UK Biobank in five years, and the NHS Genomic Medicine Service will expand on existing projects such as the 100,000 Genomes Project.

The project will sequence 100,000 genomes from around 70,000 people with the aim to create a new genomic medicine service for the NHS and “transform the way people are cared for.”

This is all part of Hancock’s wider ambition to sequence five million genomes, which he says he will achieve by “bringing together expertise from world-leading industry experts” such as UK Research and Innovation, the NHS and other partners.

Hancock said: “I’m incredibly excited about the potential for this type of technology to improve the diagnosis and treatment for patients to help people live longer, healthier lives – a vital part of our long-term plan for the NHS.

“Today’s commitments form part of our bold aspiration to sequence five million genomes in the UK, using ground-breaking technology to do this within an unprecedented five-year period.”

Genomics has the potential to speed up diagnoses, which can take years for rare diseases, and help reduce the number of invasive tests patients currently have to undergo.

The more genetic information available, the earlier clinicians can predict, diagnose and treat illnesses.

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 Image credit - Victoria Jones, PA Wire


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