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 £300 million, the Prime Minister will announce today.
The 4 year project will allow scientists to do pioneering new research to decode 100,000 human genomes – a patient’s personal DNA code. The landmark project is on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.
It 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 £78 million.
In turn, Illumina will invest around £162 million into the work in England over 4 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 said:
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.
As our plan becomes a reality, I believe we will be able to transform how devastating diseases are diagnosed and treated in the NHS and across the world, while supporting our best scientists and life science businesses to discover the next wonder drug or breakthrough technology.
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 project is also very important for the economy and the development of life sciences in this country – including creating valuable jobs in Cambridge and beyond.
Sir John Chisholm, Executive Chair of Genomics England said:
This is a real milestone in turning this ambitious project into what we always intended which is a world leading project capable of delivering immense benefit to current and future patients.
Jay Flatley, CEO of Illumina said:
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.
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.
Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said:
Understanding humanity’s genetic code is not only going to be fundamental to the medicine of the future. It is an essential part of medicine today. In rare congenital diseases, in cancer and in infections, genomic insights are already transforming diagnosis and treatment.
The Wellcome Trust has invested more than £1 billion in genome research that has built this understanding, including pivotal contributions to the Human Genome Project, the world-leading science of the Sanger Institute, and critical work in global health, medical ethics and public engagement. Genomics England will further exploit this knowledge for medical advances that help patients, within a robust ethical framework that relies on their informed consent, so supporting its efforts is a logical next step. We will be proud to host its sequencing hub alongside Sanger’s at our Hinxton genome campus, and to fund researchers who use its data to investigate disease.
Simon Stevens, NHS England’s Chief Executive said:
The NHS is now set to become one of the world’s ‘go-to’ health services for the development of innovative genomic tests and patient treatments, building on our long track record as the nation that brought humanity antibiotics, vaccines, modern nursing, hip replacements, IVF, CT scanners, and breakthrough discoveries from the circulation of blood to the existence of DNA.
The NHS’ comparative advantage in unlocking patient benefits from the new genomic revolution stems from our unique combination of a large and diverse population, with universal access to care, multi-year data that spans care settings, world-class medicine and science, and an NHS funding system that enables upstream investment in prevention and new ways of working, as demonstrated by this ground-breaking 100,000 Genomes Project.
Genetic disorders and genomics
Rare diseases are uncommon but there are between 5,000 to 8,000 known genetic disorders. Around 3 million people are affected by them, half of these are children.
When the Human Genome Project was undertaken in the early 1990s, it took 13 years and over £2 billion to sequence the first whole human genome. But now with advances in technology, the speed and cost of sequencing a human genome has fallen dramatically.
Our understanding of how to use this information has also increased. We still have a lot to learn, but these advances have opened up the potential use of genomics medicine within mainstream healthcare.
Genomics England is a wholly owned by the Department of Health. It was set up to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project. This flagship project will sequence 100,000 whole genomes from NHS patients by 2017.
Genomics England has 4 main aims:
- to bring benefit to patients
- to create an ethical and transparent programme based on consent
- to enable new scientific discovery and medical insights
- to kickstart the development of a UK genomics industry
The project is focusing on patients with rare diseases, and their families, as well as patients with common cancers. The project is currently in its pilot phase and the main project begins in 2015.