A genetic revolution for south east England


Posted on Tuesday 2 October 2018
20181002-genomic facility

Genomics facility

Genetic testing for people in south London and south east England is set to be transformed following the announcement of a new genomics laboratory hub for the region.

A consortium led by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust will provide the new laboratory hub, which will be at the centre of a network made up of NHS organisations in the area, including King’s College Hospital, St George’s University Hospitals, South London and Maudsley and Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trusts and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

Known as the London South Genomic Laboratory Hub, it is one of seven newly commissioned genomic laboratory hubs across the country announced today (Tuesday 2 October) by NHS England.

The south east England network will be one of the largest providers of genomic testing in the UK, delivering services to south London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, as well as providing a national centre for specialist testing for cardiology, gastro-hepatology, haematology, neurology, respiratory and skin conditions.

The national hub and network model will not only improve patient access for genetic testing, but will also support the development of more personalised healthcare. The ultimate ambition is for patients with rare inherited diseases and cancer to be diagnosed and treated quicker than ever before, wherever they live.

Genetic testing can be used to find out whether or not a person has inherited a specific altered gene (genetic mutation) that causes a particular medical condition. Testing usually involves having a blood or tissue sample taken. The sample will consist of cells containing a person’s DNA.

The new service will allow clinicians to access testing for over 500 conditions seven days a week, with some results being available in as little as three days. It will also enable the identification of gene mutations in cancer cells which can be targeted by new drug therapies.

The new laboratory hub will be delivered by Viapath, the independent pathology provider which is majority owned by the NHS through Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts. The hub will work closely with laboratories in our partner trusts and across south east England to ensure rapid access to existing diagnostic services, as well as developing new tests, and attracting the brightest and best clinical academic talent to the region.

Dr Ian Abbs, Chief Medical Officer at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This announcement is fantastic news for people in south east England, who will benefit from improved access to genetic tests for a wider range of rare conditions than ever before. Our partnership is committed to using genomic medicine to identify diseases earlier and to better personalise the treatment and care we provide to our patients.”  

The new laboratory hubs form part of a range of measures announced today to revolutionise patient care through the NHS’s continued use of genomic medicine, including the sequencing of one million whole genomes. This builds on the 100,000 Genomes Project, which was launched in 2012 to achieve the target of sequencing 100,000 whole human genomes.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I’m proud to announce we are expanding our 100,000 Genome Project so that one million whole genomes will now be sequenced by the NHS and the UK Biobank.

“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 five million genomes in the UK, using ground-breaking technology to do this within an unprecedented five-year period.”

The South London Genomic Medicine Centre, also hosted by Guy’s and St Thomas’ as part of an alliance of 11 organisations, has played a key role in delivering the 100,000 Genomes Project, and will continue to provide support to the new laboratory hub and network.

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