Skip to main content

It is anticipated that around 75,000 people from across England will be involved, including some patients with life threatening and debilitating diseases

South West wins national Genomics Medicine Centre

A ground-breaking genomic medicine project, which aims to establish England as a world leader in the fight against cancer and rare disease, will be led in the South West by the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) working with other health trusts and universities.

The RD&E has been selected today by NHS England as one of 11 centres in England that will jointly lead its 100,000 Genomes Project.

The project involves collecting and decoding 100,000 human genomes – complete sets of people’s genes – that will enable scientists and doctors to understand more about specific conditions.

The South West Peninsula NHS Genomics Medicine Centre is anticipated to contribute 4,200 genomes from people living in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

The bid was led by Professor Sian Ellard, Head of Molecular Genetics, Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Human Molecular Genetics at the University of Exeter Medical School. She said: “We are delighted to be involved in this landmark project which will give new insights into cancer biology, new ways of diagnosing rare disease and new treatments for patients in the NHS and throughout the world. Exeter has been at the forefront of this technological revolution and has already seen great benefits for patients and their families. We are very excited about the prospect of taking genome sequencing out of the research arena and into clinics throughout Devon, Cornwall and Somerset to transform healthcare.”

Commenting on the project, Professor Janice Kay, Provost, University of Exeter, said: “I’m delighted that we’ll play a major role in this exciting national research. This project is pioneering, and will make a real difference to our understanding of the human genome, which could in turn help unlock some of the mysteries around disease. This is evidence of the world-leading clinical medicine research we have at the University of Exeter Medical School, which this month was ranked 9th for impact. It is also testimony to our close partnership with the NHS, which ensures our research is always directly in line with NHS need.”

Angela Pedder, Chief Executive of the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust added: “This is excellent news for people in the region who will be able to benefit from having a national genomics centre here in the South West. The designation of the RD&E as a Genomics Medicine Centre is recognition of the excellent ground breaking research that has already taken place here and our partnership with the University of Exeter. This new project will enable us to further develop this work. The new Genomics centre- bringing together clinicians and researchers to improve patient care – is  in line with the Trust’s strategic goals of delivering high quality services to the communities we serve.”

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: “Our understanding of genomics is transforming the landscape for disease diagnosis and medicines research. We want to make the UK the best place in the world to design and discover 21st century medicines which is why we have invested in the 100,000 Genomes Project."

“It is great news for the region that the RD&E will help us sequence genomes on an unprecedented scale and bring better treatments to people with cancers and rare diseases for generations to come.”

The bid was created with the support of the Exeter-based South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) which brings together all the clinical providers, commissioners and two universities in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset to help improve and develop the NHS.

Dr Renny Leach, Managing Director of SWAHSN, said: “This project has the potential to transform the future of healthcare.  It could improve the prediction and prevention of disease, enable new and more precise diagnostic tests, and allow personalisation of drugs and other treatments to specific genetic variants.”
“That’s why we were eager to support this bid with guidance on governance, monitoring performance, KPIs and communications. The success of this bid shows the benefits of working together in our region.”

The three-year project was launched by the Prime Minister earlier this year.

The 11 designated Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) in this wave one selection process are based across the country, covering areas including Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Oxford, Birmingham and the West Midlands, Southampton, Cambridge and the East of England, Exeter and the South West Peninsula, and the North East. Over the lifetime of the project NHS England’s ambition is to secure over 100 participating NHS trusts.  A further wave of GMCs will be procured to ensure that there is comprehensive coverage across the NHS in England.

It is anticipated that around 75,000 people from across England will be involved, which will include some patients with life threatening and debilitating disease. Recruitment to the project will begin from 2nd February 2015.
After samples are collected, they will be sent securely to Illumina who have been procured by Genomics England to sequence the whole genome and to analyse it. Results will be sent back to the NHS for validation and clinical action. 

Date: 22 December 2014