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UK on the Brink of Gene Mapping Revolution?

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A new generation of UK genetic engineers will bring A Calculated Life and Jayna’s world closer to reality, with funding announced today for a £100M investment in DNA testing. Downing Street is unveiling plans to sequence the whole genone of 100,000 cancer patients. This major undertaking, according to No.10, will drive down the costs of genone sequencing in the UK.
The Chief Medical Officer talks today about the complex linkage between genes and lifestyle.
Lifestyle! Now that’s interesting. Is the long-term aim, for example, to encourage individuals to give up smoking because their DNA dictates they will definitely contract lung disease? Or could it work the other way around? Could our DNA be engineered so that addictive tendencies are eradicated. Imagine the savings for the NHS and imagine the temptation to take us down such a path.

Here’s a quote from Prof Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer,

Single gene testing is already available across the NHS ranging from diagnosing cancers to assessing patients’ risk of suffering side effects from treatment.

At the moment, these tests focus on diseases caused by changes in a single gene. This funding opens up the possibility of being able to look at the three billion DNA pieces in each of us so we can get a greater understanding of the complex relationship between our genes and lifestyle.

And here’s the nuts and bolts of today’s announcement:

Prime Minister David Cameron will today announce plans to transform cancer treatment in England with new proposals to introduce high-tech DNA mapping for cancer patients and those with rare diseases, within the NHS.

The UK will be the first country in the world to introduce the technology within a mainstream health system, with up to 100,000 patients over three to five years having their whole genome – their personal DNA code –sequenced.

The genome profile will give doctors a new, advanced understanding of a patient’s genetic make-up, condition and treatment needs, ensuring they have access to the right drugs and personalised care far quicker than ever before.

It will also help to develop life-saving new drugs, treatments and scientific breakthroughs, which experts predict could significantly reduce the number of premature deaths from cancer within a generation.

The Government has earmarked £100 million:

  • to train a new generation of British genetic scientists to lead on the development of new drugs, treatments and cures, building the UK as the world leader in the field. And train the  wider healthcare community in harnessing this technology
  • to pump-prime DNA sequencing for cancer and rare inherited diseases; and to build the NHS data infrastructure to ensure that this new technology leads to better care for patients.