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Government announces £175m genomics investment boost

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Patients with cancer and children born with rare genetic diseases are set to benefit from a £175 million investment into cutting-edge genomics research.

The investment, announced by the Health and Social Care Secretary, could lead to earlier diagnosis and faster access to treatment for thousands of patients.

The funding is part of a new three-year plan to develop, evaluate and roll out new technologies across the health and care system and life sciences sector and to bolster the UK’s position as a ‘life sciences superpower.’

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

“The potential for genomics to revolutionise the way we deliver health care is great – if we can detect treatable illnesses earlier and ensure patients access potentially lifesaving treatment faster, we could improve people’s lives across the county, including thousands of babies through this new pilot.

“The NHS is a world leader in genomics and by investing in this cutting-edge research we’re cementing our status as a life sciences superpower.”

The investment includes £105 million to kickstart a research study, led by Genomics England in partnership with the NHS, to explore the effectiveness of using whole genome sequencing to find and treat rare genetic diseases in newborn babies.

Elsewhere, an initial £26 million will support an innovative cancer programme, led by Genomics England in partnership with the NHS, to evaluate cutting-edge genomic sequencing technology.

The programme aims to improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis for cancer patients and use artificial intelligence to analyse a person’s DNA, alongside other information such as routine scans.

A further £22 million will enable Genomics England to sequence the genomes of up to 25,000 research participants of non-European ancestry.

These communities are currently under-represented in genomic research.

By sequencing these genomes, Genomics England aims to improve our understanding of DNA and its impact on health outcomes.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“From cancer treatment and diabetes research to increasing our understanding of rare and undiagnosed diseases, genomic medicine is already transforming lives and helping to create new treatments for all kinds of conditions.

“Outstanding progress is being made across the UK, and this £175m plan sets out how we will use the latest genomic technology to go even further, leveraging the might of our excellent NHS and top researchers to lead the world in using genomics for healthcare, boost growth by supporting high quality jobs, and cement our position as a global science superpower.”

The government has also announced up to £25 million of UKRI-MRC funding for a new UK-wide initiative on functional genomics.

This area of genomic research uses molecular tools such as gene editing to improve understanding of how genetic variation leads to disease and support smarter diagnostics and the discovery of new treatments.

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