The Government has announced a raft of genomics investment in support of their new genomics implementation plan, Genome UK: 2022 to 2025 implementation plan for England.
These new pledges total £175 million and seek to continue the excellent work of the thriving genomics industry in the UK. The funding announcements include:
- £105 million of government funding for a landmark research programme, led by Genomics England in partnership with the NHS, to study the effectiveness of using whole genome sequencing to speed up diagnosis and treatment of rare genetic diseases in newborn babies, potentially leading to life-saving interventions for thousands of babies.
- £22 million of government funding for Genomics England to tackle health inequalities in genomic medicine through tailored sequencing of 15,000 – 25,000 participants from diverse backgrounds by 2024/25, as well as extensive community engagement work to build trusting relationships with traditionally excluded groups of people.
- £26 million of government funding for an innovative cancer programme, led by Genomics England in partnership with NHS England and the National Pathology Imaging Co-operative, to evaluate cutting-edge genomic sequencing technology and use artificial intelligence to analyse genomic data alongside digital histopathology and radiology images to improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis for cancer patients.
- up to £25 million Medical Research Council-led funding for a 4-year functional genomics initiative, working across UK Research and Innovation and other stakeholders to establish an industry-partnered world-class offer on functional genomics, building on already existing infrastructure and UK research expertise
The aforementioned new “Genome UK: 2022 to 2025 implementation plan for England” follows the previous “Genome UK: 2021 to 2022 Implementation Plan” in May 2021, and “Genome UK: shared commitments for UK-wide implementation 2022 to 2025” in March 2022 and intends to set out how the Government will further progress delivery of Genome UK in England during the current spending review period.
Within the report, there are sections detailing the actions that will be taken to benefit ‘diagnosis’ and ‘prevention and early detection’ of disease through genomics, which may be of particular interest to members. Some of these have already been outlined in the spending pledges above.
In the former’s case, these include the NHS Genomic Medicine Service (GMS) continuing to update their test directory annually so that more clinical indications are eligible for genomic testing, as well as introducing innovative genomic sequencing techniques to improve diagnosis and treatment of patients.
Moreover, the NHS Southwest Genomic Laboratory Hub has recently launched a new rapid WGS service for specific conditions to provide actionable WGS results more quickly for patients across England. This has the potential to increase the detection of diagnostic variants, offer more individuals a diagnosis, and enable more patients to access life-saving treatments – ultimately reducing days spent in hospital, less invasive procedures, and a more efficient NHS through the streamlining of diagnostic tests.
Regarding early detection and prevention of disease, the Government will work with the Our Future Health project to both improve the mapping of patient health and collaborate via a working group to inform participants of their risk scores and the subsequent impact on the NHS.
The plan also refers to NHS England’s seismic commercial partnership with GRAIL for the testing and use of their Galleri genomic test for cancer, aiming to accelerate the test into widespread usage as rapidly as the evidence allows. As long as the research shows effectiveness, 500,000 tests will be rolled out in the financial years 2024 to 2025 and 2025 to 2026.
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