UK & World News
PM Hails £300m Project To Unlock Power Of DNA
UK scientists are to map 100,000 complete DNA code sequences in a "landmark" project that aims to revolutionise medicine, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced.
Mr Cameron said the 100,000 Genomes Project, funded by a package of deals worth £300m, will "see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years".
The project will sequence the genetic codes of about 75,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases, and those of their close relatives.
Both the healthy and the tumour cells of the cancer patients will be mapped, meaning about 100,000 will be sequenced in total.
Mr Cameron said: "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.
"As our plan becomes a reality, I believe we will be able to transform how devastating diseases are diagnosed and treated in the NHS and across the world, while supporting our best scientists and life science businesses to discover the next wonder drug or breakthrough technology."
Scientists hope that identifying tiny changes in the genetic code that can trigger disease will allow for personalised and more effective treatments.
One example of such a therapy that already exists is Herceptin, a drug specifically designed for women with a type of breast cancer characterised by over-activity of the Her2 gene.
DNA samples have already been donated by a few hundred participants in a pilot, and about 10,000 are expected to have donated by the end of the year.
The project is expected to be completed by 2017.
Among the cancers due to be targeted are bowel, breast, leukaemia, lung, ovarian, prostate and leukaemia.
Charity the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the National Health Service are contributing to the project, which will be overseen by Genomics England, set up by the Department of Health.
The Californian DNA sequencing company Illumina, which won a contract to provide the technology for the project, will also invest about £162m in the project over its lifetime.
Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar said genome sequencing could transform medicine.
"Twenty years from now academics and industry will have developed therapies which will be targeted at you and specific forms of cancer," he said.
"We will look back in 20 years' time and the blockbuster chemotherapy drugs that gave you all those nasty side effects will be a thing of the past."