Life Sciences & Society

Our free seminar series continues on 10 March with perspectives from Dr Jeff Skopek (University of Cambridge Lecturer in Medical Law, Ethics and Policy) on the challenges for law and ethics posed by technological developments.
Big data and personalised medicine

Opinion of the month

Dr Charlotte Warren-Gash echoes a recent article by PHG Foundation Director Dr Hilary Burton in asserting that public health practitioners should not leave genomics to clinical colleagues but step up to play a crucial role in ensuring that genomics is used in cost-effective, equitable ways to improve population health.

NHS genomic medicine

There have been important developments for clinical genomics in the UK in the last month; the announcement of the first eleven Genomic Medicine Centres came just before Christmas, and a consultation on plans for a total reconfiguration of genomic laboratory services in mid-January.

Plans for new NHS Genomic Laboratory Services
First NHS Genomic Medicine Centres announced

Clinical genomics and research

Genomic medicine is a major theme this month, with the first results from the Deciphering Developmental Disorders project revealing the scope for genome-wide analysis to boost diagnosis and identify new, rare genetic disorders. Scotland announces a promising new academic-NHS partnership for clinical whole genome sequencing, and a paper reports learning from clinical application of genomics in the US.

Implementation of clinical genomics: lessons learned
Genomic sequencing study boosts rare disease diagnosis
Can the Scottish Genomes Partnership rival Genomics England?
Driving discovery of new genetic causes of developmental disorders

UK policy developments

Regulatory plans to support proposed legal amendments to permit mitochondrial transfer have been announced, and technical developments in genome editing have provoked calls for fresh debate on the ethical and legal issues surrounding human genetic modification. The Association of British Insurers has renewed their agreement not to require disclosure of genetic test results, and UK newborn screening has been extended to a further four rare conditions. Efforts to fast-track cost-effective, sustainable innovations into the health service are to be supported by a dedicated accelerator programme.

Draft UK regulations for mitochondrial donation released
Call for debate on human genome editing
UK moratorium on use of genetic tests by insurers extended
Expansion and renewal of newborn screening in UK and US
NHS innovation accelerator programme launched

Infectious diseases

As the PHG Foundation team buckle down to production of a truly epic report on the health applications of pathogen genomics and a policy roadmap for their optimal use, the first annual review of the UK strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance has been released. One pillar of the strategy is improving the pipeline of new antimicrobials, and new research shows exciting potential for the discovery of active new antibiotics from the soil, whilst malarial parasite genomics gives insight into the sources of drug resistance.

Progress of UK Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy
Genetics of parasite resistance to malaria drugs
Fresh hope in the hunt for new antibiotics

Personalised medicine

Qatar continues its pattern of high-profile international collaborations in genomics and personalised medicine, this time with Japan. In the UK, Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP has talked of his ambitions to put personalised medicine at the heart of biomedical research and healthcare practice. In the same vein, research suggests that biomarkers may reveal helpful information on the best way to support smoking cessation, drugs or nicotine patches. Further from clinical practice but of definite health interest, analysis of the Bowhead whale genome reveals how they lead such long, cancer-free lives.

Japan and Qatar partner on personalised medicine
Plans to reform UK biomedical sector around personalised medicine
Blood test for smokers could show best way to quit.
Ageing insights from whale genome