From 2019, all seriously ill children and adults with certain rare diseases or hard-to-treat cancers will be offered whole-genome sequencing as part of their care, Matt Hancock has revealed.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on 2 October 2018, the health and social care secretary also announced plans under the NHS Genomic Medicine Service to expand on existing projects, including the 100,000 Genomes Project, and sequence 1 million whole genomes in five years.
The plans form part of Hancock’s wider ambition to sequence 5 million genomes in the UK over the next five years by bringing together the expertise of world-leading industry experts, such as UK Research and Innovation and the NHS.
The 100,000 Genomes Project began in late 2012, when the then prime minister David Cameron launched a challenge to sequence 100,000 genomes by 2017 — a deadline that was later extended until the end of 2018. To date, it is one of the largest national sequencing projects of its kind in the world and is focused primarily on making progress in the areas of cancer and rare disease.
“I’m proud to announce we are expanding our 100,000 Genomes Project so that 1 million whole genomes will now be sequenced by the NHS and the UK Biobank,” Hancock told the conference.
“I’m incredibly excited about the potential for this type of technology to improve the diagnosis and treatment for patients to help people live longer, healthier lives — a vital part of our long-term plan for the NHS.
“Today’s commitments form part of our bold aspiration to sequence 5 million genomes in the UK, using ground-breaking technology to do this within an unprecedented five-year period.”
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the trade association for over 120 companies in the UK producing prescription medicines for humans, said Hancock’s announcement was good news for patients with cancer and rare diseases as well as their families.
Mike Thompson, chief executive of the ABPI, commented: “Unlocking the secrets of the genome and increasing genomic testing will help us create a new generation of exciting new treatments and cures.
“The pharmaceutical industry looks forward to working with the government and the NHS on these plans, including helping to develop the skills and expertise needed to ensure that the UK can become a world leader in genomic medicine.”