In these uncertain times

Uncertainty surrounds us, and while this has always been the case, it feels to me that recent political upheavals have led to a greater sense of uncertainty about our futures, and even uncertainty about what we know, or do not know, to be true.

Will 2017 be the year when genomic medicine becomes business as usual?

There was no shortage of excitement (some might call it hype) about genomics and personalised healthcare in 2016, but for the vast majority of patients, the benefits of genomics remained tantalizingly out of reach. I have been wondering whether there are reasons to be more optimistic for 2017? Could this be the year that ‘patient benefits from genomic medicine’ is no longer newsworthy, and b...

The long road to safer antenatal choices

After a great deal of evidence gathering, consultation and discussion, the Department of Health has announced its approval of the introduction of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) as part of the NHS antenatal screening pathway.

Contextualising our genomes - finding patients like you

While each genome is far from the deterministic blueprint from which an entire life can be mapped out in advance, they do vary significantly from person to person - and the study of that variation has yielded many important insights into both the causes of disease and why some of us are more susceptible to certain diseases than others. At its most extreme, the possession of certain varia...

Who is playing the long game?

A mere glance at the news these days is enough to bring home the message that, in its current form, our health system simply cannot deliver all the care people want (and need) at a cost the country can afford. And what of the future? Is there any prospect of significant change and improvement? Something to reassure millennials – the health system frequent flyers of the future – that we hav...

No room for risk aversion in healthcare innovation

I’ve been trying to reconcile my many contradictory thoughts and feelings following the medtech / big data / biomedicine whirlwind that was Wired Health 2016. The event didn’t so much leave me tearing my hair out as searching my soul. From a purely scientific perspective the meeting was jaw dropping. Personalised drug testing using microfluidic organs-on-a-chip, personalised mental healt...

Our genomes unite us all...but can they unite the health service?

Every living thing on earth has a genome. We are united by the common chemical basis of our lives, our DNA. Every day, scientists are discovering more about these genomes, how they work, why they fail, what the significance of their enormous diversity really is. With every new discovery they make, about genomes from organisms great and small, the case for making genome sequencing and analysis...

FSA report brings wider failure to implement pathogen genomics into focus

It was great to see the launch yesterday of the Food Standards Agency’s Chief Scientific Advisor’s report on whole-genome sequencing of Foodborne Pathogens, and not only because this report references the landmark PHG Foundation publication on this topic from 2015, Pathogen Genomics into Practice, and supports many of its recommendations. I was delighted to see the FSA acknowledging the...

Healthcare futures

Biomedical science and digital technologies are going to transform our health in the 21st century. Surely this is beyond debate? The questions now, as I see it, are how can we make the most of our burgeoning biomedical knowledge and how will we determine which tools in our technological armoury are going to be the most effective for improving health.

Moving pathogen genomics out of the ‘too difficult’ pile

Infectious disease management: the status quo is not OK

Putting the 'precision' into Precision Medicine

The aim of so-called precision medicine is to improve the safety and effectiveness of healthcare by targeting interventions to individuals in whom they will be most effective, thereby avoiding unnecessary and potentially harmful interventions and possible adverse reactions from inappropriate dosages. In theory this targeting can be achieved by characterising what makes each of us ‘individu...

Tackling TB: A step closer to a genomics-led solution?

Tuberculosis infections are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and remain a major public health concern within the UK (which has one of the highest rates of TB infection in Europe). A major part of the UK public health strategy to reduce the number of TB infections centres around improved detection, diagnosis and outbreak management.