A Liverpool group has today been announced as one of 11 bids from across the country to be selected by NHS England to take part in a world-leading project to tackle the genetic causes of cancer and rare diseases. A project launched by the Prime Minister earlier this year.
Liverpool-based North West Coast NHS Genomic Medicine Centre, a partnership led by Liverpool Women's Hospital alongside Liverpool Health Partners and involving several other NHS Trust from the region, has today been announced as one of the teams that will lead the way in delivering the '100,000 Genomes Project', a three year project launched by David Cameron, which will transform diagnosis and treatment for patients with cancer and rare diseases.
Angela Douglas, Scientific Director for Genetics at Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust and Chair of the British Society for Genetic Medicine (BSGM), said: "The 100,000 Genome Project is welcomed by the BSGM as an exciting and unprecedented development that offers the UK the opportunity of being a leader in the field of Genomic Medicine. The challenge of the project will be to embed its outcomes into routine health practice. The genetics community looks forward to working towards meeting that challenge. The project 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 initiative involves collecting and decoding 100,000 human genomes – complete sets of people’s genes – that will enable scientists and doctors to understand more about specific conditions.
Some participating patients will benefit because a conclusive diagnosis can be reached for a rare and inherited disease more quickly, or because a treatment for cancer can be targeted at the particular genetic change that is present in the cancer. But for a number of patients, the benefit will be in the improvement in our knowledge of the influence of genetics on disease and how it is expressed in an individual, how other people can be helped with similar diseases in the future, and how different types of tests can be developed to detect changes beyond the genome.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman added: "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. We also want to ensure NHS patients benefit which is why we have now selected NHS hospitals to help us sequence genomes on an unprecedented scale and bring better treatments to people with cancers and rare diseases for generations to come."
The 11 designated Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) in this wave 1 selection process are based across the country, covering areas including North West Coast (Merseyside), Greater Manchester, Oxford, Birmingham and the West Midlands, Southampton, Cambridge and the East of England, Exeter and the South West Peninsula, and the North East.
Professor Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist at Genomics England, said: "The creation of the new NHS Genomic Medicine Centres will play a key role in bringing together researchers, NHS clinicians and trainees to work on whole genome data that has never been collected on this scale before. We have a clear goal of accelerating the findings from the programme back into mainstream healthcare at the fastest possible pace, meaning more rapid results for patients."
It is anticipated that around 75,000 people will be involved in this project, which will include some patients with life threatening and debilitating disease. Recruitment to the project will begin from 2nd February 2015. North West Coast Genomics Medical Centre will be recruiting patients with diseases that the group has particular specialist services for, and patients may well be asked if they wish to take part in the coming weeks and months.
Professor Munir Pirmohamed of the Department of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool said: "The 100,000 genomes project not only represents a transformational change for the NHS for the delivery of clinical care, but will also lead to exciting new research opportunities. The framework created by LHP, through the formation of the NW Coast Genomics Healthcare Alliance, will be able to utilise this opportunity to develop new genetic diagnostics, and utilising expertise in personalised medicine in Liverpool, develop better medicines for the future."