A £100 million drive to introduce DNA mapping for patients will start with cancer, rare diseases and infectious diseases, the Health Secretary has announced.
Lung and paediatric cancer, as well as rare and infectious diseases have been prioritised, following expert advice.
Run by Genomics England, the project will develop a new generation of British genetic scientists to develop new drugs and treatments, train the healthcare community to use the technology and fund the initial DNA sequencing.
“The NHS has a long track record as a leader in medical science advances and it must continue to push the boundaries by unlocking the power of DNA data,” said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
He added: “The UK aims to become the first country to introduce this technology in its mainstream health system - leading the global race for better tests, better drugs and above all better, more personalised care to save lives.”
It is estimated that one in 17 people is born with or develop a rare disease during their lifetime. At least 80 per cent of rare diseases have an identified genetic component, with 50 per cent of new cases of rare diseases being identified in children.
However, it can take considerable time and expense between a patient first presenting to a doctor and receiving an accurate diagnosis. The time taken to sequencing a whole human genome has been reduced to one to two weeks and will become more affordable for routine use as the price continues to fall.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:
“By putting firm foundations in place through Genomics England, this technology will let us make ground-breaking discoveries about how diseases work, who could be susceptible to them, how we can treat them, and what treatments might work.
“Earlier diagnoses will help to reduce uncertainty and stress for patients and families involved.”
Late last year Prime Minister David Cameron revealed that the personal DNA code (genome) of up to 100,000 patients or infections in patients will be sequenced over the next five years.