The 3-year project, launched by the Prime Minister earlier this year, aims to improve diagnosis and treatment for patients with cancer and rare diseases.
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.
What is a Genome?
The project has the potential to improve our ability to predict and prevent disease. It may also lead to new and more precise diagnostic tests, and the ability to more accurately personalise drugs and other treatments to specific genetic variants.
It is anticipated that over 75,000 people will be involved, which will include some patients with life threatening and debilitating disease.
After samples are collected, they will be sent securely to Illumina who have been procured by Genomics England to sequence the whole genome and to analyse it. Results will be sent back to the NHS for validation and clinical action.
The 11 designated Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) in this first selection process are based across the country covering areas including Greater Manchester, the North West coast, Oxford, Birmingham and the West Midlands, Southampton, London, Cambridge and the East of England, Exeter and the South West Peninsula, and the North East.
Over the lifetime of the project NHS England’s ambition is to secure more than 100 participating NHS trusts.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said:
Our understanding of genomics is transforming the landscape for disease diagnosis and medicines research. We want to make the UK the best place in the world to design and discover 21st century medicines which is why we have invested in the 100,000 Genomes Project. We also want to ensure NHS patients benefit which is why we have now selected NHS hospitals to help us sequence genomes on an unprecedented scale and bring better treatments to people with cancers and rare diseases for generations to come.
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.
Professor Sue Hill, the Chief Scientific Officer for England, who chaired the team evaluating the various applicant GMCs said:
The NHS has risen to both the challenge and opportunity of delivering its contribution to the 100,000 whole genomes project in the most extraordinary and unparalleled way. Locally in the NHS, there has been clearly demonstrated engagement and involvement of senior managers, clinical teams, clinical genetic and molecular pathology laboratories and critically patients and the public, all committed to using the science of whole genome sequencing to making a real and lasting difference for patient benefit.
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.