Opinion of the month

Innovation in healthcare is always at the forefront of our thinking. This month PHG Foundation’s Head of External Affairs Dr Philippa Brice and Head of Policy, Lucia von Bredow, each examine new policy initiatives to speed biomedical innovations into practical improvements in patient treatment and population health.

UK moves to accelerate access to medical innovations
Test beds and NHS innovations – will the risk-taking pay off?

Digital health and innovations

A smartphone app is helping patients and GPs to better understand the progress of, and manage treatment regimes for, long term disorders, and a prototype ‘smart chair’ to manage back pain is being tested by volunteers. Scientists have combined DNA sequencing and optical mapping to develop a Google map for bone marrow cancer, and genomics firm Illumina have announced plans to create a new European HQ near Cambridge.

Health apps on the up
'Google Maps' for the cancer genome
‘Virtual spine’ to help office workers sit up properly
Illumina European HQ set for Cambridge Biohub

Infectious diseases

The race against time that is critical in the battle against infectious disease has received several boosts this month. News of a new tool to identify drug resistant forms of tuberculosis and an electromagnetic chip that can detect antibiotic resistance in less than hour were among the highlights. Scientists are a step closer to understanding the genetic makeup of the notoriously drug resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae and there is renewed optimism that new research and a candidate vaccine will set MERS on the run.

New tools to battle drug resistance
Klebsiella pneumoniae 'superbug' genome decoded
MERS weak spot revealed

Science and health policy

A PHG blog highlights the importance of improving standards for data sharing if we are serious about delivering better clinical services for patients. This is an issue at the heart of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, which celebrated its second anniversary this month. Responding to public perceptions of doctors and scientists as ‘untrustworthy’ the UK Chief Medical Officer has requested a review of the safety and efficacy of medicines, whilst a US firm has been heavily penalised for illegal genetic testing of employees.

A virtuous cycle - using evidence to improve genetic testing
Global Alliance for Genomics and Health marks two years of progress
Chief Medical Officer calls for medicine review
First prosecution under US Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

Genes and genomes

Scientists have overturned a popular – among other scientists, at least – link between the AMYI gene and obesity. Genome sequencing has identified a new genetic form of immune deficiency; a separate study has uncovered a mutation that protects against diseases linked to prion protein; and a new potential biomarker for pancreatic cancer is so far proving 100% accurate. The first meeting of Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnerships (GeCIPs) has been held alongside public announcement of the research domains they encompass.

New study overturns genes link to obesity
Genetic resistance to prion disease including vCJD
New genetic immunodeficiency identified
New biomarker for pancreatic cancer?
Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnerships announced