100,000 Genomes Project heads West

Issue date: 16 December 2015


Today the world leading 100,000 Genomes Project has announced the two latest NHS centres to be unveiled, one of which is to be based in the West of England. The West of England Genomic Medicine Centre (WEGMC) involves a multi-disciplinary team from hospitals and universities across the region, including UWE Bristol, which will be led by University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

The centre, based in Bristol, will be part of the three-year project, launched by the Prime Minister, to transform diagnosis and treatment for patients with cancer and rare diseases.

Professor Aniko Varadi from UWE Bristol will lead the work in education and training.

Professor Varadi said, “It is critical that the workforce in the NHS is educated and trained to ensure the effective delivery of genomic technologies. The education and training programme supports the delivery of the 100,000 Genomes Project but it goes well beyond that. The ultimate aim is that the next generation of clinicians, scientists and multi-disciplinary healthcare teams have the awareness, knowledge and capacity to apply genomics to clinical practice. For example genomics can be used to predict how well a person will respond to a drug or which drug would be the most effective.

“We have some good examples already where genomics information guide and inform doctors about the best treatment for a patient (e.g. breast cancer). But for the large majority of cancers there is no successful treatment currently and it would help if we would know the genes involved. The NHS workforce will need to be ready to use genomics as part of the routine care pathway and they need to be ready to interpret the genomic data and understand how it can be used for a patient's care. This requires a very rapid response from the current and future NHS workforce and it is very exciting to be part of this possibly once in a life time transformation of health care.”

The project will sequence 100,000 genomes – complete sets of people's genes - from around 70,000 people. Participants are NHS patients with a rare disease, plus their families, and patients with cancer.

The aim is to create a new genomic medicine service for the NHS – transforming the way people are cared for. Patients may be offered a diagnosis where there wasn't one before. In time, there is the potential of new and more effective treatments.

Tony Gallagher, Chairman of WEGMC, said, “This is an important step forward for patients and the development of future treatments in the West of England. Working together we have teams of dedicated and experienced doctors, nurses, counsellors, scientists, managers, commissioners and academics who are committed to realising the transformative possibilities that genomic medicine offers to patients in our area.”

The project will also enable new medical research. Combining genomic sequence data with medical records is a ground-breaking resource. Researchers will study how best to use genomics in healthcare and how best to interpret the data to help patients. The causes, diagnosis and treatment of disease will also be investigated. The project also aims to kick-start a UK genomics industry. This is currently the largest national sequencing project of its kind in the world.

Professor Steven Neill, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of Heath and Applied Sciences, said, “It is great that UWE Bristol is a full partner in the West of England Genomic Medicine Centre as the opportunities to exploit genomic technologies for patient benefit are truly exciting. Crucial to the effective utilisation of genomics will be excellent education and training for the NHS workforce and UWE Bristol has a pivotal role here, with Professor Aniko Varadi leading this aspect of the WEGMC's work.”

Professor Jenny Ames, Associate Dean (Research and Innovation), said, “Genomic medicine is the future for patient care. At UWE Bristol, linking our research and learning in this vital area is crucially important. It ensures that our students are trained in cutting edges methods informed by the latest research for the benefit of patients.”

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