Scotland to be at forefront of gene-led healthcare in £15m project with Illumina

Scottish Genomes Partnership will include Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow

A £15m project looking at gene sequencing technology is expected to secure Scotland’s place as a world leader in a genomics revolution that is set to transform healthcare.

The initiative will enable scientists and clinicians to access equipment that can decode the genetic make-up of a person for less than £750.

The Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, in partnership with Illumina, a US company that specialises in sequencing and genomics, will take part in the project that will establish The Scottish Genomes Partnership, which will install 15 state-of-the-art HiSeq X sequencing instruments divided between two hubs within the Universities.

Researchers will be able to study the genomes of both healthy and sick people on a large scale and faster than before.

Linking genetic data with clinical information will enable more precise, molecular diagnoses for patients in the Scottish NHS, leading to more personalised treatment and safer selection of drug therapies.

Scotland is uniquely placed to make a significant contribution to the field of genomics medicine

It will also bring new understanding of the causes of both rare and common diseases, opening the door to the development of new treatments.

The partnership will initially focus on rapid screening of cancer patients, diagnosing childhood illnesses, disorders of the central nervous system and population studies.

Eventually, by using other Illumina systems, the technology will be used to examine infectious organisms such as bacteria and viruses so that infections can be diagnosed more quickly and accurately, and also to study genomes from plants and livestock for agricultural research.

The Universities will draw on the Medical Genomics leadership based at the University of Glasgow’s Wolfson Wohl Cancer Centre, a translational research facility dedicated to cancer, and the expertise of Edinburgh Genomics, the UK’s largest university-based gene sequencing facility.

Professor Jonathan Seckl, Vice Principal (Research) at the University of Edinburgh, said: 'Scotland is uniquely placed to make a significant contribution to the field of genomics medicine. It has well established and approved methods of linking electronic health records to medical research programmes, governed by NHS and academic regulations.

'Edinburgh is also home to the UK’s national supercomputer facility, which will provide the high performance data processing ability needed to analyse the vast volume of information that will be generated from this research.'

Professor Anna Dominiczak, Vice Principal and Head of College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow, said: 'Scotland has an ideal ecosystem to lead the world in precision medicine. With a population of 5.3 million, cohesive and collaborative NHS, academia and industry, we have developed unique capability to screen DNA from patients with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory and infectious diseases.'

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