DNA

Genomics research funding to cement UK as ‘life sciences superpower’

Health secretary Steve Barclay has today announced £175m of funding to harness the potential of advanced genomics, as the Government looks to cement the UK’s position as a life sciences superpower.

The investment includes £105m to mobilise a world-leading research study – led by Genomics England and the NHS – to evaluate the efficacy of whole genome sequencing to diagnose and treat rare genetic diseases in newborns.

Starting in 2023, the research will sequence the genomes of 100,000 babies to garner as much evidence as possible to see if a nationalised programme is a viable possibility.

The £175m also includes an initial £26m to back an innovative cancer project – also led by Genomics England and the NHS – that will look into state-of-the-art genomic sequencing technology to accelerate the speed and enhance the accuracy of diagnosis for cancer patients.

Another £22m will be ringfenced for a study that will sequence the genomes of up to 25,000 people of non-European ancestry to shine a light on under-represented communities and gain a greater understanding of how DNA affects health outcomes – this is expected to narrow health disparities and boost outcomes up and down the country.

The Government has also announced £25m worth of funding for a national functional genomics scheme, which is a facet of genomic research that uses molecular tools like gene modification to gather insight into how genetic variations impact disease probability. If successful, this will help develop more advanced diagnostic techniques and more effective treatments.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, said: “We’ve made advancements in so many areas to improve people’s health – from ensuring ground-breaking new medicines get to patients faster to bolstering the NHS workforce to ensure we have record numbers – and this plan, backed by £175m, sets out how we will use the latest genomic technology to go further.

“The potential for genomics to revolutionise the way we deliver health care is great – if we can detect treatable illnesses earlier and ensure patients access potentially lifesaving treatment faster, we could improve people’s lives across the county, including thousands of babies through this new pilot.

“The NHS is a world leader in genomics and by investing in this cutting-edge research we’re cementing our status as a life sciences superpower.”

For more information on the funding and everything it will support, click here.

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NHE May/June 2024

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