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NHS launches 11 new centres to lead genomics project

NHS England has today named the Genomic Medical Centres (GMCs) that will be leading the 100,000 Genomes Project, the three-year scheme set up to gather data that will improve the diagnosis and targeted treatment of genetic disease.

The initiative involves collecting and decoding 100,000 human genomes – complete sets of people’s genes – that will enable scientists and doctors to understand more about specific conditions.

Recruitment will begin on 2 February 2015 and will include a cross-section of patients from across England, including some suffering with life-threatening and debilitating diseases. It is anticipated that over 75,000 people will be involved.

Once the GMCs have procured samples, they will be sent away to Illumina – a San Diego-based company that accounts for 90% of all DNA data produced – for sequencing. The sequenced genomes will then be returned to the GMCs for validation and any subsequent clinical action.

The theory behind the scheme is that with such a huge bank of genome data, researchers will be able to develop new diagnostic tests that identify genes linked to certain diseases. It should also allow for personalised treatment, particularly in the case of cancers. By identifying the specific gene mutations causing tumour growth, it is possible to develop and use drugs that have been purposefully targeted at treating that mutation.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s national medical director, said: “This is an achievable ambition which positions Britain to unlock longstanding mysteries of disease on behalf of humankind. Embracing genomics will position us at the forefront of science and make the NHS the most scientifically advanced healthcare system in the world. This is the start of a unique, exciting journey that will bring benefits for patients, for the NHS and for society at large.”

The 11 Genomics Medicines Centres will open across England in February at:

  • Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London
  • Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust
  • Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London
  • Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust
  • Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Over the lifetime of the project NHS England’s ambition is to secure more than 100 participating NHS trusts.

Professor Mark Caulfield, chief scientist at Genomics England: “The creation of the new NHS Genomic Medicine Centres will play a key role in bringing together researchers, NHS clinicians and trainees to work on whole genome data that has never been collected on this scale before. We have a clear goal of accelerating the findings from the programme back into mainstream healthcare at the fastest possible pace, meaning more rapid results for patients.”

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