U.K. to Map DNA of Up to 100,000 Patients

The U.K.'s National Health Service will map the DNA of up to 100,000 patients with cancer and other rare diseases in hopes of accelerating diagnosis, improving treatment and sparking innovation.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) says it will map the DNA of up to 100,000 patients with cancer and other rare diseases over the next three to five years at a cost of $162 million (£100 million).

“Britain has often led the world in scientific breakthroughs and medical innovations, from the first CT scan and test-tube baby through to decoding DNA,” says Prime Minister David Cameron, “and Britain should become the first country to introduce genetic sequencing to its mainstream health service,”

The NHS already analyzes single genes from patient tumors for insight into a patient’s chance of experiencing treatment side effects. Now, with decreased sequencing costs, governments are rapidly moving beyond the whole tumor sequencing projects that already exist to whole genome sequencing. The U.K. will be the first country in the world to introduce next generation sequencing technology within a mainstream health system, with up to 100,000 patients having their whole genomes sequenced.

The U.K. initiative “opens up the possibility of being able to look at the three billion DNA pieces in each of us so we can get a greater understanding of the complex relationship between our genes and lifestyle,” says Sally Davies, the U.K.’s chief medical officer. “Understanding and harnessing genetic information offers huge potential to target effective treatments and develop new treatments and cures.”

It’s a race not only for improvements in therapy, but also for sparking innovation. By unlocking the power of DNA data, the NHS hopes to lead the global race for better tests, better drugs, and better care, Cameron says.

“If we get this right, we could transform how we diagnose and treat our most complex diseases not only here but across the world, while enabling our best scientists to discover the next wonder drug or breakthrough technology," he says.

Copyright 2012 Burrill & Company. For more life sciences news and information, visit http://www.burrillreport.com.