The UK is set to become the world leader in ground-breaking genetic research into cancer and rare diseases, which will transform how diseases are diagnosed and treated, thanks to a package of investment worth more than £300M.
The landmark project is on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world and is part of the Prime Minister’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.
Sequencing the genome of a person with cancer or someone with a rare disease will help scientists and doctors understand how disease works. The project has the potential to transform the future of health care, with new and better tests, drugs and treatment. It is expected to provide a lifeline to thousands of families affected by rare genetic diseases and cancers.
The Prime Minister has pledged that the UK will map 100,000 human genomes by 2017.
Now, as world leading research organisations join forces, the 100,000 Genomes Project has reached a major milestone in a package of new investment.
The Prime Minister is today unveiling a new partnership between Genomics England and the company Illumina that will deliver infrastructure and expertise to turn the plan into reality. As part of this, Illumina’s services for whole genome sequencing have been secured in a deal worth around £78million.
In turn, Illumina will invest around £162million into the work in England over four years, creating new knowledge and jobs in the field of genome sequencing. The investment will not only help the life science industry to thrive, but potentially create opportunities for talented UK scientists to lead the world. It will also pave the way for all NHS patients to eventually benefit from this exciting new technology.
This research puts the NHS at the forefront of scientific discovery. This is in line with the Prime Minister’s vision for the NHS to be the first mainstream health service in the world to offer genomic medicine as part of routine care.
Prime Minister David Cameron commented, “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.
The Wellcome Trust has invested more than £1 billion in genomic research and has agreed to spend £27 million 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 agreement will place Genomics England at the heart of one of the world’s most vibrant genomic science and technology clusters, and allow scientists to work with world-class researchers from the Sanger Institute, the European Bioinformatics Institute, and biotechnology companies based on the same site.
The Medical Research Council has also earmarked £24 million 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.
NHS England has started the process of selecting the first NHS Genomics Medicine Centres. Successful centres will help to progress this ambitious project by inviting cancer and rare disease patients to take part to have their genome sequenced. NHS England has agreed to underwrite an NHS contribution of up to £20 million over the life of the project.
The cash injection – and new partnerships – will mean excellent progress can be made on the 100,000 Genomes Project. It is expected that around 40,000 NHS patients could benefit directly from the research. Ultimately this work will pave the way for genomics-based medicine to become part of everyday practice throughout the NHS.
Participation in the project will be based on consent, and people’s data will be strictly protected through Genomics England’s secure data services.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said, “Genomics England’s ground breaking partnership with Illumina confirms Britain’s position as a world leader in the field of genetic medicine. This project will help us map genomes on an unprecedented scale and bring better treatments to people with cancers and rare diseases for generations to come.
“This is a momentous day for the UK to push the boundaries of medical science and create the first comprehensive national program for genomic healthcare." commented Jay Flatley, CEO of Illumina. “Illumina is committed to partnering with Genomics England as they look to implement vital changes in the way healthcare is practiced. This project confirms the UK as a leader in the global race to implement genomic technology and create a lasting legacy for patients, the NHS and the UK economy.”