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What Is the Future of Genomics in the UK?

on Tuesday, 10 November 2020.

The UK marked its place as the frontrunner in the field of genomics many years ago when it created genomics focused institutions such as the UK BioBank and Genomics England...

... as well as the launch of the pioneering 100,000 Genomes project - the first project of its kind in the world.

But what is next for the UK when it comes to genomics? The answer was provided in the recently published Genome UK paper, which sets out the future of the UK in the field of genomics, particularly how different bodies in the genomic sector will come together to utilise their research and resources in this field to progress and prioritise genomic science for the benefit of patients.

What Does the Report Say?

The report does not skimp on detail and at 64 pages long seeks to provide some much longed-for answers to where the genomics landscape is heading and who will be leading the charge both on behalf of the government institutions behind the move, as well as the commercial and public bodies responsible for taking the technology from scientific theory to patient therapies.

The Executive Summary in the report summarises the paper and the vision of Genome UK as follows:

  • Diagnosis
    A dedicated approach to using the latest in genomic research and technology in routine healthcare. The objective of this approach is to improve diagnosis and the way we treat illness in the UK. This is to be done through:
    - the new NHS England Genomics Medicine Service which promises to sequence over 500,000 whole genomes
    - a focus on pharmacogenomics and tailoring therapies to the patient
    - a focus on the use of genomics in cancer to improve patient outcomes

  • Prevention
    A move to focus on prevention rather than cure to improve patient wellness and avoid hospitalisation and the need for long-term care. This will be achieved through the expansion of early screening capabilities and a more targeted approach to this process. This raises ethical questions in relation to proposals around the genomic screening of newborns and prenatal testing and will be an interesting development to watch as this area of technology helps shift towards a more personalised plan for our health.

  • Research
    The UK's world leading research in the area of genomics is to continue in order to provide a clear path from research and development activities into healthcare pathways. This is to be done through responsible  data usage and collaboration, as well ensuring good quality, diverse data sets accessible through a strong infrastructure.

The goals above are to be achieved through five areas:

  • engagement with the general public, including placing the patient at the centre of this journey

  • developing our healthcare workforce in this innovative area through training and education

  • supporting growth in UK industry through funding and apprenticeship schemes

  • upholding a high level of trust in the sector through strong regulation, secure data and ethical frameworks

  • bringing together projects and different teams/sectors in a synchronised manner to connect researchers and healthcare professionals  in order to interpret this valuable data set and bring much needed, tailored treatments to patients

Impact and Opportunity to Hear More

The UK has been at the forefront of the genomics field for a number of years. Despite the current uncertainty due to COVID-19 and the final stages of the Brexit transition period, this report gives hope that the UK will continue to lead the world in this area.  Ultimately, this would benefit patients and their families. As a legal advisor to some amazing organisations in this space, I am excited to see what the future holds and be a part of this journey.

For us here at VWV, the release of the Genome UK report is particularly exciting as it further supports our view that Britain has a great future in this area, a view that we are sharing with the sector at our annual PING Conference this year under the theme 'Britain's Great Life Sciences Future - Genomics, Personalised Medicine and AI'.

At the virtual PING Conference, we have a high quality of speakers on the hot topics where Britain is playing such a big part in shaping the future for the next stage of pharma - focusing on how things are dramatically changing in Genomics, Personalised Medicine and through the use of AI to do things such as change the supply chain and increase the ability to provide new treatments including in areas of unmet need. We are particularly excited that we will be hearing more about the UK's approach to genomics and how this innovative technology can help put a more personalised focus on the prevention and treatment for disease in the UK from one of our key note speakers, Joanne Hackett (Chair at Pexxi) at this year's PING Conference. Jo will also be joined by a long list of leading individuals in the field of genomics, including Nick Lench from Congenica, which has just received a further $50 million in its recent Series C funding round for its advance clinical genomic analysis software and data platform. This really is an event not to be missed!

We currently have 180 people booked to attend and there will be some great networking opportunities to mix with big pharma, mid-size pharma, established smaller pharma companies, start-ups, HE and numerous other sector specialists, specialist industry consultants, and sector press. 

The event is by invitation only. However, if you would be interested in attending, please contact Laura Barrell at 07775 518 585.

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