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Multi-million-pound funding for genomics research

Patients with cancer and children born with treatable rare genetic diseases are set to benefit from earlier diagnosis and faster access to treatment. It follows a £175m boost to genomics research announced by the UK health and social care secretary.

Funding will enable research which could deliver genomic healthcare to patients. It involves the study of individual patient DNA and is part of a new three-year plan to develop new technologies across the healthcare system and life sciences sector.

It includes a £105m package to start a world-leading research study – led by Genomics England in partnership with the NHS – which will explore the effectiveness whole genome sequencing to treat rare genetic diseases in newborn babies, such as rare genetic thyroid hormone conditions. These are not detectable by the routine NHS heel prick test and can cause developmental and longer-term health complications without treatment.

Next year, the study will sequence the genomes of 100,000 babies over the course of the study and will gather evidence to consider whether this could be rolled out across the country.

There will also be an initial £26m to support an innovative cancer programme to evaluate cutting-edge genomic sequencing technology to improve the accuracy of diagnosis for cancer patients. Meanwhile, an additional £22m to sequence the genomes of up to 25,000 research participants of non-European ancestry, is set to improve our understanding of DNA.

Health and social care secretary, Steve Barclay, reflected: “We’ve made advancements in so many areas to improve people’s health – from ensuring ground-breaking new medicines get to patients faster to bolstering the NHS workforce to ensure we have record numbers and this plan, backed by £175m, sets out how we will use the latest genomic technology to go further.

“The potential for genomics to revolutionise the way we deliver health care is great – if we can detect treatable illnesses earlier and ensure patients access potentially lifesaving treatment faster, we could improve people’s lives across the county, including thousands of babies through this new pilot.”

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