BLOG: Genomes – the key to personalised care

Jonathon Gray, Chief Executive of the SW AHSN, looks at the exciting changes that genomic medicine could make to the future of the NHS.

This week I attended a seminar organised by the Westminster Health Forum on the next steps for genomic medicine in the NHS.

Secretary of State Matt Hancock has stated his ambition to map five million genomes. This will allow for faster diagnosis and more personalised care. The seminar was an opportunity to consider the early indications from the new NHS Genomic Medicine Service – as well as the next steps for NHS Genomic Medicine Centres, as they aim to deliver the pledge of 90,000 samples of DNA from patients and family members with rare disease and cancer.

There were contributions from researchers, commissioners and Sir John Chisholm, Executive Chair of Genomics England. Baroness Neville-Jones, Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Rare, Genetic and Undiagnosed Conditions told us it’s a national failure that we fail to implement scientific discoveries in this country – and as one of the fifteen AHSNs in England, it’s our privilege and responsibility to change that.

This is where my AHSN role and my previous life overlap! My clinical training was in clinical genetics, working with amazing families grappling with inherited conditions. My team set up one of the first cancer genetics services, and my early research was on how families choose to receive, and respond to genetic risks/ results. There are so many exciting ways we can help – public awareness and education, clinical service improvement, undergraduate and postgraduate training, and equally important, joining up the service and system needs with the amazing innovators entrepreneurs and SMEs that have potential solutions.

So let’s help increase the speed of change in genomics.

Sir John Chisholm set out the next steps from the 100,000 Genomes Project, which we have supported in the South West. He gave a glimpse into the possible role of future ‘wearables’ to integrate genomic and other data. And he reminded us that it is vital to take the public with us and keep the patient at the centre of these ambitions.

The advances we’ve made in just the last decade are immense. With such huge potential to improve health and care on an individual basis, we’re going to need a system that is radically different, and we need to start planning for that now or we will miss the amazing opportunities genomics is opening up for us right now.

The AHSNs are perfectly placed to answer that challenge from Baroness Neville Jones, to bring our strengths – joining up needs with the innovations and ideas, the problems and the solutions – sharing them quickly and enthusiastically.

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