The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is going to start providing genetic tests in exchange for patients in England who agree to share their genomic data so that it can be used for research.
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The sequencing of each person’s genome, which will cost a few hundred pounds, will provide individuals with a health report that will reveal their risk of developing illnesses such as cancer or Alzheimer’s.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock believes the tests will help researchers develop treatments that will benefit everyone in the future and flag up patients who require further investigation.
From this year, seriously ill children and adults with genetic conditions, including cancer, will be offered DNA analysis as part of their routine care. While healthy people should not have this service free on the NHS, there are huge benefits to sequencing as many genomes as we can. Every genome sequenced moves us a step closer to unlocking life-saving treatments.”
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
The project, which will be led by a company called Genomic England, is still in the development phase and no specifics have yet been provided regarding a launch date or exact cost.
The initiative follows the successful completion of the 100,000 Genomes Project in December 2018, which saw a total of 100,000 genomes sequenced and four participants with rare diseases diagnosed for the first time.
Chairwoman of the British Society for Genetic Medicine, Anneke Lucassen, has raised concerns about the plans saying there is a misunderstanding about what whole genome sequencing can really deliver: "You can use genetic code to confirm a clinical picture, but you can't use it to predict what will happen in the future very accurately."
It is also unclear how patients will be managed should they happen to find out that they are at high risk of developing a serious illness.
However, Lucassen is also positive about the initiative, saying the government otherwise has sensible plans regarding genetic medicine and praising its commitment to collecting genetic data.
NHS to offer paid-for DNA tests if patients share dat