Patients in the UK will be the first in the world to participate in an ambitious programme to sequence 100,000 genomes as part of a “paradigm shift” in healthcare focusing on the genetic causes of disease.

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The South London-based Genomics Network Alliance has been announced as a successful bidder in the race to become a pioneering Genomic Medicine Centre, as part of the ground-breaking 100,000 Genomes Project.

As part of this, St George’s will work with King’s College London and local NHS trusts to provide university expertise for the ambitious plan. The universities will also play a key part in genomic research and education.

Professor Nigel Brown, Director of Institute of Medical and Biomedical Education at St George’s, University of London, said: “This is a very welcome announcement for the Genomics Network Alliance and for the population of South London.

“St George’s and King’s will build on the Genomics Medicine Centre with education and research programmes for the whole healthcare workforce in South London that will eventually allow us to better personalise treatment for patients and give our clinicians an enhanced understanding of cancer and rare diseases.”

The NHS has set up 11 Genomic Medicine Centres across England as part of the first wave that will recruit tens of thousands of patients with cancer and rare genetic disorders during the next three years.

The announcement of the successful bid to be part of the project was made by NHS England after a rigorous national selection process. It follows the Prime Minister’s pledge earlier this year to establish the UK as a world leader in genetic research and to transform patient care by unlocking the power of DNA.

The three-year programme, which will begin in February 2015, 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.

Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS's medical director, said the £300million initiative puts the UK in a position to “unlock a series of secrets about devastating diseases which have remained hidden for centuries and to unlock those on behalf of the whole of humankind”.

It is hoped that the programme will help in the development of new drugs and diagnostic tests, heralding a new era of personalised medicine.

It is anticipated that around 75,000 people will be involved, which will include some patients with life threatening and debilitating disease. Recruitment to the project will begin from 2nd February 2015.

More information about genomics and the 100k Genomes Project can be found here.

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