UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has today announced the launch of the Genome UK 2021-2022 implementation plan.
Following the Genome UK policy paper published in September 2020, the plan outlines 27 priority actions for the next year that will help the UK to advance its ambition to become “the world’s most advanced genomic healthcare ecosystem”.
WHY IT MATTERS
The plan outlines 27 commitments to further genomics in the UK, with 5 key goals:
- A partnership between Genomics England and NHS England/Improvement to enable faster and more comprehensive genomic testing of cancer
- Whole genome sequencing for patients with rare diseases
- Ensure diverse datasets through bespoke screening programmes so that everyone in the UK can benefit from genomic databases
- The advancement of Our Future Health research programme, supported by £79 million from UKRI
- Develop global standards and policies for sharing genomic health data securely
Genomics England projects that support the implementation of the Genome UK strategy will receive £17 million from the government, it was announced in April. This will be used in part to increase data from ethnic minorities in particular genomic cohorts, which could enhance diagnosis and treatment of those in the BAME community.
THE LARGER PICTURE
The UK’s strong standing in genomics is due in large part to the work of Dame Sally Davies, England’s former chief medical officer, who founded Genomics England and launched the 100,000 Genomes Project, which, in turn, led to the foundation of 7 national genomics laboratory hubs in England.
In January, Matt Hancock announced the New Variant Assessment Platform, a programme to enable scientists from around the world to access the UK’s genomics laboratories in a bid to sequence the full genetic code of COVID-19.
Oxford University also recently partnered with Oracle to launch the Global Pathogen Analysis System, or GPAS, a digital genomic sequencing platform to analyse and compare different COVID-19 variants and highlight those that may pose an elevated threat to the population. This platform is intended to help scientists and governments make faster, more informed public health decisions and mitigate the risk of potentially dangerous variants. There are already plans to expand its capabilities to include other pathogens.
ON THE RECORD
Hancock said today in the Commons: “We will transform the UK into a life sciences superpower. We’ll build on the success story of our life sciences during the pandemic which has led the world in everything from vaccine development, to finding effective treatments that work, to genomic sequencing. Today we’ve published our Genome UK implementation plan for how we can build on this even further including our commitment to sequence 1 million whole genomes. Because genomics saves lives, and I’m determined the UK stays at the forefront of this vital new technology.”
Welsh government health and social service minister, Eluned Morgan, added: “We are committed to the implementation of the ambitious and pioneering UK-wide genomics strategy and will continue to work closely across the UK to adopt a truly 4-nations approach to our delivery where possible, alongside seeking the advice and strategic direction from Genomics Partnership Wales.”