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New strategy aims to make UK a genomics super-power

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The UK government has launched a new National Genomic Healthcare Strategy intended to secure the country’s future position as a global leader in genomics and create ‘the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world’.

The strategy intends to unite the genomics community behind a shared vision for the future that will deliver wide-ranging benefits for the UK population through predictive, preventative and personalised care based on genome sequencing. It also builds on previous government commitments to sequence at least a million whole human genomes in their entirety, and to conduct genomic analyses for at least five million people in total. Three main areas are covered:

  1. Diagnosis and personalised medicine – rare diseases, infectious diseases, and cancer
  2. Risk prediction and prevention – common chronic diseases
  3. Research – data sharing and cross-sector collaboration

Launching the strategy, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock noted that “The UK is using its expertise in genomics right now to advance our understanding of COVID-19, develop new treatments and help us protect the most vulnerable”. This refers to a wide range of research efforts including the national research study being led by the University of Edinburgh along with the NHS, Genomics England and the GenOMICC consortium to understand the role of individual genomics in why some patients develop severe COVID-19.

Commenting on the new strategy, PHG Foundation Director Dr Mark Kroese said: “The Foundation welcomes the National Genomics Healthcare Strategy and very much endorses its plans. We are delighted that it includes many commitments we have recommended in the past. We look forward to supporting the delivery of this exciting and vital vision for future health”.

Chair of Trustees and long-time expert in genomics and public health policy Dr Ron Zimmern said: “It gives me great pleasure personally to see this report now in print, delivering on the key recommendation of our report back in 2000, and encompassing so much of what we at the PHG Foundation have been advocating and working for over the last 20 plus years.  A triumph for UK medicine and public health”.

These plans are the culmination of multiple policy developments over recent years; a national strategy was also called for by Prof Dame Sally Davies in the 2016 annual report of the Chief Medical Officer, which reviewed all the areas covered by the final 2020 strategy, including prospects for personalised prevention of disease using genomics.

The strategy is analysed in more detail here.

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