According to Sir John Chisholm, Chair of the 100,000 Genomes Project, the UK is now an acknowledged global leader in population genomics. This has come about through the foresight of the UK government to invest in the 100,000 Genomes Project, which is sequencing 100,000 genomes. Launched in 2013, the Project has now sequenced 40,000 genomes and the target is to complete the rest by the end of 2018. Sequencing genomes is the key to developing a strategy of personalised medicine, which is widely expected to be revolutionary, so that the right patients will be able to be given the right medicines in the right dose at the right time.
I was privileged to hear from Sir John, as well as other leading lights in the drive towards personalised and genomic medicine at a Westminster Health Forum event held in London just before Christmas. Aside from the excitement from the speakers about what can be achieved in the future through genomics and personalised medicine, a recurring thought during the session was the need to work hand-in-hand with big data to unlock the knowledge arising out of the 100,000 Genomes Project.
A key concern, though, was the state of NHS data, much of which was not digitised or in a good state - such as testing and imaging data. Achieving best quality NHS digitised data would be an important catalyst towards making most use of the output of the Project. This digital revolution needed to happen in order to make the personalised medicine revolution more effective.
What is also encouraging is that establishing protocols to encourage proper sharing of data in genomic medicine is going to be one of the areas of focus for Dame Fiona Caldicott in 2018. Dame Fiona is the national data guardian in England. She has set out her focuses in her Health and Care 2017 report, which can be found on the Government's website.
Personalised medicine is an exciting revolution that we are witnessing being developed now, with the UK at the forefront. This has to be positive for the future of the life sciences sector in the UK and the recent sector strategy reports rightly highlight these opportunities. The remaining concerns, though, are how to get most out of it by working best with the data that is already out there, and how is personalised medicine going to be paid for? Dr Jayne Spink, Chief Executive Officer of the Genetic Alliance UK, spoke at the event about a paper that her organisation is going to publish next year called "Resetting The Model", which will address how personalised medicine will be funded. It will be interesting to see what that paper proposes when it is published.