UK puts £300m into 100,000 Genomes Project

UK prime minister David Cameron has announced a £300 million investment into the government’s ongoing, four-year 100,000 Genomes Project.

The 100,000 human genomes are to be mapped by 2017 and the new cash package will fund genomic sequencing deals with Illumina, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The idea is to transform how cancer and rare diseases are diagnosed and treated: the sequencing of the human genome opened up the possibility of understanding the nature of DNA and how it contributes to disease – and this offers the potential to use an individual’s unique genetics as a predictor for disease and to tailor that person’s healthcare.

Genomics England was set up by the Department of Health to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project and around £78 million of the new money is being used to secure Illumina’s services for whole genome sequencing – Illumina will then invest £162 million into the work in England over the next four years.

“This agreement will see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years,” Cameron said. “I am determined to do all I can to support the health and scientific sector to unlock the power of DNA, turning an important scientific breakthrough into something that will help deliver better tests, better drugs and above all better care for patients.”

The Wellcome Trust has put more than £1 billion into genomic research and will spend £27 million on a world-class sequencing hub at its Genome Campus near Cambridge, which also houses Genomics England’s operations.

The Sanger Institute, the European Bioinformatics Institute and various biotech companies are based on the same site, which provides the opportunity for cross-fertilisation of ideas.

In addition, the MRC is to invest £24 million in computer systems to ensure that the genome data is correctly analysed and interpreted and securely made available to researchers.

NHS England is underwriting an NHS contribution of up to £20 million over the life of the project.

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