July 2015

30 July 2015

Director’s blog

Dr Hilary Burton considers the recent speech from the Secretary of State for Health on the next five years of the NHS and beyond, and welcomes the policy shift towards placing the individual at the centre of an innovation-based health service.
A welcome policy shift signals a brighter future for the NHS

Infectious disease

A major new PHG Foundation report, Pathogen Genomics Into Practice, calls for urgent action to make the most of genomics in the fight against infections. It provides a policy roadmap for decision-makers, setting out the necessary actions to ensure citizens and patients benefit promptly from scientific advances and government investment in infectious disease genomics. In separate news two studies have used genome sequencing to pinpoint and retrace the spread of the Ebola outbreak.

Science and health policy

The challenges of health policy have exercised many minds this month. A new report from The Health Foundation and The King’s Fund says a transformation fund is needed to drive forward essential changes to health and care services, and Lord Rose has called for the urgent need to develop better NHS leadership and oversight. The Department of Health’s annual report, released this month, looked at the challenge ahead for the NHS of innovation for all. A review for UK National Screening Committee was published.

Personalised medicine

In research news, scientists have identified a new genetic cause of severe obesity and diabetes which if identified could help a patient manage the condition. With the release of the preliminary trial results of potential Alzheimer drug, Solanezumab, we looked at how the ethical argument on the utility of different predictive testing could change as new treatments are discovered. Cambridge has been announced as the headquarters for UK’s new innovation centre for precision medicine, and the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRC) have announced a new molecular pathology network to enhance UK’s ability to deliver 21st Century diagnostics.
New genetic cause of severe obesity and diabetes
Alzheimer's disease - a paradigm for personalised prevention?
Precision Medicine Catapult HQ set for Cambridge
New molecular pathology network for precision medicine 

Innovations in healthcare

It has been an encouraging month for healthcare innovations. A smart watch is offering help for the visually impaired, and a wireless implant could deliver drugs straight to the brain which could benefit people with neurological disorders such as pain and depression, while a sponge on a string may offer early diagnosis of oesophagus cancer. Sequenom laboratories have announced plans to launch a new non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) product. Any innovation requires skills to implement and use. In our blog we consider the implications for health professionals of integrating genetic profiling into established population health screening and prevention programmes.
Sponge offers hope of early cancer diagnosis
Wireless implant could target delivery of drug therapies
Smart watch help for visually impaired
Latest sub-chromosomal non-invasive prenatal test for Sequenom
Using genomics in complex diseases: do health professionals need new skills?

Theapeutics and diagnostics

Scientists have used gene therapy to partly restore hearing in mice with inherited deafness although the procedure is not yet ready for clinical trials. The startling speed at which genome editing techniques have emerged prompts us to ask who calls the shots for ethical decision making on the use of these new technologies. Mitochondrial disease is in the news again, this time with stem cells offering hope for people living with the disorder. In immunotherapy news the UK has approved nivolumab, a drug that aids the immune system in tackling tumours.