Wales joins the 100,000 Genomes Project

Wales has joined the 100,000 Genomes Project, the Welsh Government announced today.

The 100,000 Genomes Project seeks to transform patient care, encourage genomic discovery and drive a thriving genomics sector.

In an agreement between Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (CVUHB), Cardiff University and Genomics England, four hundred and twenty whole genome sequences (WGS) have been commissioned for people with rare diseases and their families in Wales.

The 100,000 Genomes Project aims to sequence one hundred thousand genomes from seventy thousand people with rare diseases and their families, as well as those with cancer. To date, more than fifty thousand whole genomes have been sequenced, with the ultimate one hundred thousand WGS milestone due to be reached by the end of 2018.

In the UK as a whole over three million people are effected by six thousand rare diseases, with around half of these being children. The 100,000 Genomes Project is already changing the lives of people with a rare disease, with genome sequencing leading to new or more precise diagnosis or a different course of treatment.

People in Wales with rare disease and their families, who choose to participate in the 100,000 Genomes Project, may be provided with a diagnosis and spared years of uncertainty and distress. With more precise and rapid diagnosis, there is also the potential to reduce pressure on Welsh health and social care budgets.

Today’s announcement brings together the Welsh Government, All Wales Medical Genetics Service, CVUHB, Cardiff University, the Wales Gene Park, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Genomics England to establish the first Genomic Medicine Centre (GMC) in Wales. This joins thirteen other NHS GMCs in England, the Northern Ireland GMC and the Scottish Genomes Project. The Wales GMC, based at the University Hospital of Wales, has been supported by the Welsh Government and the MRC, which contributed £2.4m and £1m in funding respectively.

Participation in the 100,000 Genomes Project supports the Welsh Government’s Genomics for Precision Medicine Strategy, which sets ambitious goals for genomic medicine, including the development of internationally recognised medical and public health genetics services, internationally recognised research in genomics and excellent platforms for precision medicine, new strategic partnerships in genomics and precision medicine, and for the NHS and research workforce to underpin the delivery of genomic medicine.

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, said “We are delighted that Wales has joined the 100,000 Genomes Project. The collaboration with Genomics England will enable patients with rare diseases in Wales to benefit from this exciting and transformational project, with the potential to bring quicker and more accurate diagnoses.”

The Director of the Division of Cancer and Genetics at Cardiff University School of Medicine and Honorary Consultant in Clinical Genetics with CVUHB, Professor Julian Sampson, leads the project in Wales. He said “Patients in Wales with rare conditions in whom routine testing failed to make a diagnosis now have a chance to access the most comprehensive genetic test available; sequencing of their entire genome. This will increase the chances of achieving a specific diagnosis to inform their health care. Wales’ participation in this UK-wide project is helping to establish genomic medicine in the NHS. This will have far-reaching benefits for the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of many conditions.”

Chief Scientific Advisor for Health, Dr Rob Orford, said “A key component of the Welsh Government’s Genomics for Precision Medicine Strategy is the creation of the collaborative Genomic Medicine Centre (GMC). The GMC will act as a springboard for the translation of cutting edge genomic research into better services and treatments for people of Wales.”

Dr Nathan Richardson, head of molecular and cellular medicine at the MRC, said “We welcome these very exciting developments that will help to establish a strong Wales-England partnership, which brings together patient genomes to enhance our ability to tackle the biggest challenges in understanding the role of human genetics in disease. We are excited by the prospects of people in Wales – and throughout the UK – who are affected by a rare condition and will benefit hugely from a new era of genomic medicine.”

Professor Mark Caulfield, Genomics England Chief Scientist, said “Genomics is transforming healthcare and our ability to diagnose and treat rare disease and cancer. In joining the rare disease programme of the 100,000 Genomes Project, Wales has placed itself at the centre of genomic medicine revolution that will greatly improve patient outcomes, encourage exciting new discoveries and drive a world leading genomics industry.”

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