The Government will invest more than £300million into ground-breaking genetic research into cancer and rare diseases, transforming how diseases are diagnosed and treated, it was announced today.
It will be a four year project that will see scientists do pioneering new research to decode 100,000 human genomes - a patient's personal DNA code, and will be the largest project of anywhere in the World.
The NHS England press release states, "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."
Genomics England will be working in partnership with American biotechnology company Illumina to deliver the project. As part of this, Illumina's services for the 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 four years. Other funding sources include the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.
Alex Ford, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, comments, "We welcome this announcement and the government's commitment to ensure that gene sequencing will deliver maximum benefit to patients with cancer and rare diseases. Bringing research from the laboratory to the clinic is an important step in giving patients immediate access to diagnostics and treatments."
"Genomics will allow for the discovery of new drug and immunotherapy targets and the development of specific targeted therapies and in the future it could potentially allow for a shift to prevention of pancreatic cancer based on risk-based information gained from genetic screening.
"Given the complexity of pancreatic cancer from its inception through to disease progression, identifying individual genetic differences between patients and tumours is of particular relevance. Large scale genomic analysis could advance the development of faster diagnosis routes - which is absolutely vital in pancreatic cancer.
"This project has the potential to spark wider innovation and novel research in all cancers, and so we would like to see it include a disease like pancreatic cancer which has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer and where there has virtually been no progress in the last 40 years. The real achievement for genome sequencing will be in making a difference for those patients who have not benefitted from the many advances we have seen to date."
Read the NHS England press release.