Posted on Monday 22 December 2014
The South London-based Genomics Network Alliance, which is led by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, has been announced as a successful bidder in the race to become a pioneering Genomic Medicine Centre - part of the groundbreaking 100,000 Genomes Project.
Today’s announcement by NHS England is the result of a rigorous national selection process. It follows the Prime Minister’s pledge earlier this year to establish the UK as a world leader in genetic research and to transform patient care by unlocking the power of DNA.
The national programme will focus on cancer and rare diseases and will enable pioneering research to decode 100,000 human genomes, a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman says: "Our understanding of genomics is transforming the landscape for disease diagnosis and medicines research. We want to make the UK the best place in the world to design and discover 21st century medicines which is why we have invested in the 100,000 Genomes Project."
A genome is one whole set of a person’s genes, plus all the DNA between the genes. Genomics is the study of the whole genome and how it works, but has also come to have a broader meaning to include the way that the genome is interpreted and the technologies that have been developed because of it.
The three-year project, which will begin in February 2015, has the potential to transform the future of healthcare. It could improve the prediction and prevention of disease, enable new and more precise diagnostic tests, and allow personalisation of drugs and other treatments to specific genetic variants.
The Genomics Network Alliance follows a successful pilot project at Guy’s and St Thomas’. Serving a population of more than seven million people, it is a partnership between:
- four NHS trusts: Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust
- two universities: King’s College London and St George’s University of London
- two patient organisations: Macmillan Cancer Support and Genetic Alliance UK
- two Academic Health Science Networks: covering South London (Health Innovation Network) and Kent, Surrey and Sussex
- one Academic Health Science Centre: King’s Health Partners.
The NHS trusts including Guy’s and St Thomas’ will be responsible for recruiting suitable patients and their relatives to the programme, for collecting blood and tumour samples, and for extracting the DNA from these samples. Macmillan Cancer Support and Genetic Alliance UK, as well as partners and networks across South London and Kent, Surrey and Sussex, will help with patient engagement and communications to the public. The universities will also play a key part in genomic research and education.
Professor Sean Whittaker, clinical lead for the Genomics Network Alliance and consultant dermatologist at Guy's and St Thomas', says: “We look forward to helping transform clinical practice through genomics. Our partnership recognises that our ability to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project and transform genomic diagnostics across healthcare in the South East depends on harnessing all the talents across our partner organisations."
Professor Frances Flinter, consultant clinical geneticist at Guy's and St Thomas', adds: “This is a really exciting opportunity for us to learn a lot more about the underlying causes of rare diseases and cancers. The results will lead to improved, personalised treatments for many patients and will deliver a legacy across the NHS of faster, cost effective, diagnostic genetic tests and a more highly skilled workforce.”
Find out more about genomics and the 100,000 Genomes Project.
Our genetics service will be recruiting selected families for the 100,000 genomics project starting in spring 2015. Before your family's recruitment, all available NHS genetic investigations will need to have been completed. The condition in your family will need to be one of those approved as a 'rare condition' suitable for genomic study. If you have an uninvestigated condition running in your family that may be genetic (hereditary), please first ask your own doctor to refer you to your regional genetics clinic - a list can be found at www.bsgm.org.uk. Our cancer services will be recruiting patients for the 100,000 Genomes Project starting in Spring 2015. Only certain types of cancers will be suitable for the genomic studies. Please discuss this with your specialist who will be able to provide further information and also advise on how to access this opportunity.