Eleven NHS Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) have been announced by Genomics England. They
will spearhead the 100,000 Genomes Project, which aims to decode the genomes of patients affected by cancers or rare diseases, and subsequently use this
knowledge to develop better diagnostic tests and treatments for these
Caulfield, chief scientist for Genomics England, said the centres would bring researchers
and clinicians together 'to work as part of Genomic England's Clinical Interpretation Partnership on whole genome
data that has never been collected on this scale before. We have a clear goal
of accelerating the findings from the programme back into mainstream healthcare
at the fastest possible pace, meaning more rapid results for patients.'
Genomes Project will focus on the five most common cancers - breast,
bowel, ovarian, lung and the commonest form of leukaemia - as well as 110 rare
diseases. DNA samples collected at the GMCs will be decoded
and analysed by the biotech company Illumina. The results will be returned
to NHS England, where they will be validated and shared with patients. The project will cost £300million and is scheduled to run for three
DNA of cancer patients will be taken from the tumour sample as well
as from healthy tissue and compared. For rare diseases, the project hopes to
uncover the basic genetic flaws by comparing DNA from affected
individuals with that of close unaffected relatives.
Talking to the Daily Mail, life sciences minister
George Freeman MP seemed to imply gene therapy to be an ultimate goal for the
project: 'We can move from practising one-size-fits-all medicine to beginning
to do targeted, stratified, and ultimately precision and potentially
preventative medicine - therapies that prevent disease rather than treating
disease after it's occurred. It's a very powerful technology.'
The decoded genomes along with patients'
anonymised medical records will be made available to academic institutions and
pharmaceutical companies for disease and drug research. However, third parties will only be able
to study and analyse the data at the GMCs, but can take away 'statistical
summaries', Professor Sean Whittaker, clinical lead for south London's Genomics Network
Alliance, which will become a GMC, told Channel 4 correspondent Victoria
During a further interview with Professor Maria
Bitner-Glindzicz from the GMC based at Great Ormond Street Hospital in
London, presenter Jon Snow asked
whether there is a danger that we will eventually reach a point where
everybody is subjected to DNA profiling. Professor Bitner-Glindzicz reiterated that the purpose of
the project is to gain knowledge about human genetics in health and disease,
and that participation in the project is not compulsory.
The eleven GMCs are based in London (three GMCs), Cambridge,
Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Southampton, Birmingham and Exeter.