The UK and Thailand have agreed to a partnership to share genomics expertise, research and educational opportunities.
The agreement signed by UK health minister Lord Nick Markham and Thailand's minister for public health and deputy prime minister HE Anutin Charnvirakul, outlined a commitment to collaborate on genomic research into understanding cancer and rare diseases as well as surveillance of potential new contagious diseases.
Lord Markham said: 'Through our commitment to sharing knowledge, exploring training opportunities and pioneering joint research initiatives we can collaborate to deliver better health outcomes at lower costs.'
'The potential for genomics to revolutionise the way we deliver healthcare is great and we're already starting to see this transformative science being adopted across many areas of medicine,' said chief scientific officer for Genomics England, Professor Matt Brown. 'We're delighted to partner with Thailand and share our knowledge and experience to put the promise of genomics into practice and bring benefits for patients worldwide.'
The agreement – which is not legally binding – committed to building stronger academic and institutional links between the two countries, through working groups starting as early as February 2023.
It aims to allow better sharing of information on genomics including that gathered through Thailand's 50,000 Genomes Initiative and Genomics England's 100,000 Genomes Project. Details announced so far do not specify what information would be shared, notably whether patients' genomes or other medical information would be included.
The partnership is in line with the UK's Life Sciences Vision to grow the UK's genomics industry, as well as the Genome UK ten-year genomic health strategy. Genome UK includes a commitment to improve the diversity of genomic data repositories, in which people from ethnic minority groups have historically been underrepresented. It is important that people of all ancestries are represented so that everyone can benefit equally from precision medicine approaches, and health inequalities are not widened.
The agreement will also include cooperation in monitoring new strains of bacteria and viruses which have the potential to cause harm.
'The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated clearly how vital genomic surveillance is in helping us detect and prepare for new dangers to global public health,' said Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency. 'International co-operation is a crucial part of developing this capability.'