The UK Government has launched a £200m whole-genome sequencing project in alliance with pharmaceutical companies and health experts to tackle life-threatening diseases.
Building on genomics research’s potential to allow predictive and individualised healthcare, the UK aims to perform five million DNA analyses by 2024.
The new project will sequence the genetic code of 500,000 volunteers at the UK Biobank to support better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of multiple fatal conditions such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis and heart diseases.
Data from genome sequencing is expected to provide better insight into the causes of such diseases and the best approach to fight them. It is also said to pave the way for new personalised treatment plans.
UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “In an ageing society with an increasing burden of chronic diseases, it is vital that we diagnose earlier, personalise treatment and where possible prevent diseases from occurring altogether.
“This project will help unlock new treatments and grow our understanding of how genetics affects our risk of disease.”
Under the project, the sequencing will be carried out using blood, urine and saliva samples provided by 500,000 volunteers aged 40-69 years to the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010.
In addition to the samples, the volunteers provided detailed personal information and agreed for an anonymous health follow-up.
Experts at the Wellcome Sanger Institute will perform the majority of the sequencing. Pharmaceutical companies and health experts can work together to leverage the resulting data for the development of new treatments and preventative approaches.
The information is also intended to help understand the reason behind disease development in specific individuals.
A consortium established by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome will provide £100m in total to fund the project.
Furthermore, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Amgen have offered an additional £100m.