Plans for new UK NHS Genomic Medicine Centres advance

14 October 2014

Plans to create new NHS Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) as part of the 100,000 Genomes Project are moving forward, with fifteen first-stage applications having been accepted and invitations to tender  for the second stage now open.

Applicants that successfully pre-qualify in the first stage ‘will retain pre-qualification status indefinitely’, but to become a contracted GMC Lead Organisation they must qualify in the second-stage process. This requires them to explain how they will meet the service specification for an NHS GMC and their mobilisation plan for starting activity by January 1st 2015, including all contributing partner organisations. This includes the ability to meet Genomics England’s requirements for:

  • recruitment of eligible patients with cancer or rare inherited diseases
  • obtaining appropriate consent and blood samples from these patients
  • capture of clinical information
  • transfer of samples and linked data to the Genomics England Central Biorepository
  • interpretation of genomic data and feedback of findings to patients within clinical care

The actual DNA sequencing and data validation will take place at a new Genomics England sequencing hub at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus near Cambridge, in partnership with company Illumina. The intention is to create a unique new research resource (the Genomics England Central Biorepository) that can ultimately be used by public and private researchers, with profits from access fees returning to the Genomics England’s owner, the UK Department of Health.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, among the fifteen successful first-stage applicants is Cambridge, with a bid led by Cambridge University Health Partners (CUHP) on behalf of the East of England. The bid partners are Leicester, Norfolk and Norwich and Nottingham NHS trusts and the East Midlands and Eastern Academic Health Science Networks. Whilst Cambridge is a known centre of expertise with respect to genomic research, each GMC will be expected to serve a wide section of England’s population; together, this particular prospective GMC would serve a population of around 6.5 million.

Cambridge University Hospitals Chief Executive Dr Keith McNeil said that being part of the 100,000 Genomes Project would “massively strengthen the hand of our expert clinicians and researchers to help people live longer and healthier lives” by understanding how genomics influences disease risk, improving diagnosis and providing more effective, targeted treatments.

Of note, successful GMC applicants may receive capital investment funding from the Department of Health's Tech Fund. Announcement of the finalised Genomic Medicine Centres is schedule for early December this year.

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