NHS England has named the eleven centres across the country that will drive efforts to sequence 100,000 genomes by 2017, linking genomic data to electronic patient data to spur medical research.
The genome centres, each led by an NHS trust, each have an established track record of “excellence in genomic services”, according to NHS England.
The 100K Genome project involves collecting and decoding 100,000 human genomes – complete sets of people’s genes – and linking the results with a national database of electronic patient records to enable scientists and doctors to understand more about specific conditions.
Ten centres, spread out across different regions, have been designated for genomic work on both cancer and rare disease.
The NHS 100K genome centres will be:
• East of England, led by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust;
• South London, led by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust;
• North West Coast, led by Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust;
• Greater Manchester, led by Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust;
• University College London Partners, led by Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Foundation Trust;
• Oxford, led by Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust;
• South West Peninsula, led by Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust;
• Wessex, led by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust;
• Imperial College Health Partners, led by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust; and
• West Midlands, led by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.
Another centre, North East and North Cumbria, will be led by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and handle work on rare diseases only.
The project is being led by an arm’s length organisation called Genomics England, which is owned and funded by the Department of Health.
In August, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a £300 million investment into the project, including a new £78m partnership deal between Genomics England and Illumina, a company which will deliver infrastructure for the genome sequencing.
“I am determined to do all I can to support the health and scientific sector to unlock the power of DNA, turning an important scientific breakthrough into something that will help deliver better tests, better drugs and above all better care for patients,” Cameron said in the summer.
NHS England has said the project could improve the prediction and prevention of disease, enable new and more precise diagnostic tests, and allow personalisation of drugs and other treatments to specific genetic variants.
“Some participating patients will benefit because a conclusive diagnosis can be reached for a rare and inherited disease more quickly, or because a treatment for cancer can be targeted at the particular genetic change that is present in the cancer.”
The DH agency says it wants over 100 NHS trusts to participate in the project over its three-year duration, with a further wave of centres to be chosen to ensure there is coverage across England.
Around 75,000 people will be involved in the project, including some patients with “life-threatening and debilitating disease”.
Cancer patients will have both their own genome and that of their tumour sequenced, while those with rare diseases will also have their relatives’ genomes sequenced.
After samples are collected, they will be sent securely to Illumina to sequence the whole genome and analyse it, with results sent back to the NHS for validation and clinical action.
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s medical director, said the project is “an achievable ambition which positions Britain to unlock longstanding mysteries of disease on behalf of humankind”.
“Embracing genomics will position us at the forefront of science and make the NHS the most scientifically advanced healthcare system in the world.”
Professor Mark Caulfield, chief scientist at Genomics England, said the new centres will bring together researchers, NHS clinicians and trainees to work on whole genome data that has never before been collected on this scale.
“We have a clear goal of accelerating the findings from the programme back into mainstream healthcare at the fastest possible pace, meaning more rapid results for patients.”