Genomics England is a company set up and owned by the Department of Health and Social Care to run the 100,000 Genomes Project, which aims to sequence 100,000 genomes from NHS patients with a rare disease and their families, and patients with cancer. An infectious disease strand is being led by Public Health England.
In October 2018, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, announced that the program had been expanded with a new goal of sequencing five million genomes within five years. He also announced that starting in 2019, the NHS will offer whole genome sequencing (WGS) to all children suspected of having a rare genetic disease or with cancer.
In July 2019, Chris Wigley was appointed CEO of Genomics England, starting in October 2019. Wigley is a former McKinsey executive known for applying machine-learning and artificial intelligence technology to transform performance. Baroness Blackwood, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, said: "I want to personally congratulate Chris on his appointment as Chief Executive of Genomics England. He is an excellent leader with a proven track record of delivery, and I am very confident that Genomics England will go from strength to strength under his leadership. I want to also put on record my thanks to Sir Mark Caulfield for his work as interim CEO over the past six months. He has made a fantastic contribution to genomics over his career and I am very pleased that this was recognised with a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours."
Agreement with Illumina
On 13 January 2020, Genomics England and Illumina announced a new agreement to deliver up to 300,000 whole genome equivalents over the next five years, with an option to increase to 500,000. Samples will be provided through the NHS Genomic Medicine Service and the network of seven genomic laboratory hubs across England, which were established in 2018. This supports NHS England’s ambition to lead the world in introducing whole genome sequencing into routine healthcare. Samples will also be provided by Genomics England and from the Government’s Life Sciences Strategy for research purposes.
The agreement builds on the successful delivery of the 100,000 Genomes Project (100KGP), which established consent from patients with rare genetic diseases and cancer, tissue sample requirements, standardised DNA sequencing, data analysis and reporting. It also supports the ambition described by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to analyse up to 5 million genomes (including whole genome sequencing) by 2024, enabling the UK to maintain its position as a global leader in genomics.
On 1 May 2020, Baroness Blackwood was appointed Chair of Genomics England, succeeding Baroness Dido Harding, who had been Interim Chair since November 2019. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: "It’s a great pleasure to welcome Baroness Blackwood as the new Chair of Genomics England. Nicola brings huge experience to the role, including from her time as Life Sciences Minister, and I’m certain she will drive forward the crucial work already underway to better our understanding of the human code and the health benefits that can bring. I thank Baroness Dido Harding for the significant contribution she made to Genomics England, helping to spearhead the organisation as a world leader in genomic science."
Partnership with GenOMICC
- Genetic susceptibility to coronavirus to be tested in ground-breaking nationwide study
- Genomes of thousands of patients with coronavirus will be sequenced to understand how a person’s genetic makeup could influence how they react to the virus
- Genomics England partners with University of Edinburgh to lead research drive to support the search for new treatments
The project is backed by £28 million from Genomics England, UK Research and Innovation, the Department of Health and Social Care and the National Institute for Health Research. Illumina will sequence all 35,000 genomes and share some of the cost via an in-kind contribution.
The study, facilitated by the University of Edinburgh and multiple NHS hospitals, will explore the varied effects coronavirus has on patients, supporting the search for treatments by identifying those most at risk and helping to fast-track new therapies into clinical trials.
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- "Genomics England Appoints AI Specialist Chris Wigley as CEO"
- "Chris Wigley appointed CEO of Genomics England"
- "Baroness Blackwood appointed Chair of Genomics England"
- "New partnership to sequence human genomes in the fight against coronavirus"