30 representatives of governments, healthcare providers, academia and industry from 15 countries gathered in the UK to meet with British experts in genomics with the aim of exploring collaborations to develop their local genomics capability.
With the 100,000 Genomes Project
to sequence 100,000 of the genomes of NHS patients and combine with NHS data, led by Genomics England, the UK is a world leader in genomics. It is already at an advanced stage of a systematic long-term plan for integrating genomic and personalised medicine into the day-to-day delivery of healthcare.
The visit provided the opportunity to showcase the UK’s expertise, discuss the challenges of creating a genomics service and develop international partnerships. Delegates participated in:
a study tour to see in practice how the UK is approaching the introduction of genomics into clinical medicine
a 2-day conference entitled “The impact of the genomics revolution on global health – how can governments respond?”
Speaking at the conference, the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister of Minister of State for Community and Social Care at the Department of Health said:
The UK has great strength in genomics and personalised medicine and has a clear proposition to work with partners around the world to develop global genomics capability and capacity.
The larger and more diverse the population we study, the more we will learn about inherited diseases and cancers. This means that, together, we can develop, more quickly, very accurate diagnostic tests and personalised treatment.
Summing up his vision for the future, Mr Burt said:
If you want to be at the cutting edge of healthcare planning, delivery and medicine, then genomics should clearly be a key focus. We hope that, as a result of this event, we will see more collaboration internationally in the extraordinarily exciting field of genomics medicine.
George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Health, addressed delegates at the start of the conference.
We see genomics as the transformational technology of 21st century healthcare. Our message to companies, to scientists, to countries around the world, is to come and join us in this exciting mission. The simplest way to access the UK’s knowledge and expertise is through Healthcare UK.
Healthcare UK’s Medical Director, Professor Rory Shaw, outlined the benefits of collaboration with UK genomics experts.
Because of the UK’s strength in this field, other countries can take advantage of our knowledge and systems. Many countries don’t have the academic infrastructure to handle and analyse data, and many have populations too small to see significant numbers of rare diseases.
The UK can offer help ranging from education and training to setting up genomic medicine centres linked to the UK network. Collaboration could be a massive benefit for mankind.
As well as its enormous value for patients, the genomics industry can bring economic benefits, both as a result of the growth of linked industries such as technology and the financial benefits of targeting medication to those people who will best respond.
Genomics, the study of the human genetic code, is helping to revolutionise medicine. Because small variations in DNA can affect vulnerability to different diseases, knowledge of a patient’s genetic code means medicine can be tailored to individual needs, leading to better prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s Medical Director, emphasises the significance of genomics to the future of healthcare:
As the microscope and x-rays revolutionised medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries, so knowledge of the human genome will dramatically change medicine in the 21st century.
Many of the major scientific discoveries relating to genomics have been made in the UK, from the identification of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick to the sequencing of the human genome at the Sanger Centre in Cambridge. We continue this tradition through some of the best universities and research institutions in the world.
UK government support for the genomics industry
There is strong support for the genomics industry from the UK government, which is funding the 100,000 Genomes Project to bring the benefits of personalised medicine to NHS patients with rare inherited diseases and cancers.
The NHS has been running a network of genetics services for many years, where our major hospitals work closely with universities and research institutions. These networks have joined together within regions to form 13 Genomic Medicine Centres across England, collaborating to take genomics and personalised medicine to the next stage and support the 100,000 genomes project. Similar arrangements are underway in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.