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UK Life Sciences

Volume 555: debated on Monday 10 December 2012

Today, the Prime Minister has announced the Government’s intention to pump-prime the sequencing of 100,000 whole genomes over the next three to five years. This work will initially focus on cancer and rare diseases which, together with infectious diseases, are already showing patient benefit.

The potential of the information contained in the human genome is recognised as one of the most important health care opportunities of modern times. This initiative will include funding for staff training and developing bioinformatics support to prepare the NHS to make the paradigm shift from sequencing individual genes to scanning whole genomes. It will change fundamentally the way we view disease, monitor its progression and use this knowledge to transform health care. It will help patients get targeted treatments for them as individuals. The NHS Commissioning Board will lead on a delivery framework and service design with an aim to have contracts in place by April 2014 at the latest.

The Department of Health is working closely with colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the NHS Commissioning Board to ensure that clinicians, patients, researchers and the wider public are involved in promoting the adoption of genomic technology to provide better health care and help research and the wider economy. The Government will also put in place careful safeguards for the storage each patient’s genome sequence and the use of anonymised data for research, which will be overseen by the chief medical officer for England.

This new initiative will form part of the next phase of the “Strategy for UK Life Sciences”, launched 12 months ago by the Prime Minister, which declared our commitment to a sector we see as vital to the UK’s long-term economic prospects. This work will also complement “Innovation Health and Wealth, Accelerating Adoption and Diffusion in the NHS”, published by Sir David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, which is updated today. The UK is well placed to play a world-leading role in this next phase of the biomedical revolution, thanks to its first-class science and research base and the unique position of the NHS as a single health care provider. We remain at the forefront of genetic science innovation, translating this into real benefits for NHS patients. The Government and the NHS Commissioning Board will ensure that NHS patients benefit and that there is a clear strategy to take advantage of opportunities in genomics.

In addition, the Minister for Universities and Science, my right hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Willetts), Department of Business and Skills is today announcing that part of the science capital committed in the Chancellor’s recent “Autumn Statement 2012” will be for projects in the life sciences: in synthetic biology; regenerative medicine; and biologies.