NHS announces new Genomic Medicine Service

The UK agency said the goal is to provide access to genetic testing to drive personalized treatments and enable interventions for the whole country.
By Leontina Postelnicu
02:41 PM
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NHS hospital in the UK

Manchester, UK – National Health Service Chief Scientific Officer for England Sue Hill formally announced a new national Genomic Medicine Service at the Health and Care Innovation Expo here.

The new service, set to be rolled out in October, will provide 'equitable access' to genetic and genomic testing, including whole genome sequencing, and drive personalized treatments and interventions for the country’s entire population, building on the 100,000 Genomes Project, delivered to ‘common national standards, specifications and protocols’.

The U.S. also has a similar undertaking, the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us program, which aims to enroll 100,000 participants to share their data for research purposes. Both it and the NHS program comes as hospitals and technology vendors are increasingly building next-gen tools for precision medicine and genomics based on machine learning, SMART on FHIR and EHR integration to meet the demand for consumerism in healthcare.

While the market for precision medicine tools has been somewhat boundaryless thus far, market research firm KLAS this summer said it is starting to take shape and pinpointed, for example, 13 tech vendors with precision medicine capabilities.

NHS detailed initial plans to create the new service in March 2017, but a recent report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee warned that delays in the digitization of the NHS would compromise its rollout.

“The Genomic Medicine Service will evolve the role of existing clinical genetics services and the NHS Genomic Medicine Centers to enable seamless delivery for patients, and provide comprehensive access to specialist expertise from hospitals and specialist providers through primary care,” Sir Malcolm Grant, NHS England Chairman, and John Paul Maytum, Special Adviser to the CSO, wrote in a paper published in the Personalized Medicine journal earlier this year.

They explained that, in the future, the new service would ‘grow from its base in cancer and rare disease to driving prescribing and treatment optimisation and personalisation of interventions’.

A national genomic test directory will be a key part of the service, setting out the tests that will be available, how they will be provided and what technology will be used, among others, according to Hill, along with a network of seven genomic laboratory hubs set to coordinate genomic testing in specific regions.

In partnership with Genomics England, the NHS will build a new national genomic knowledge base to inform the work of researchers and industry partners, creating an “ecosystem for patient benefit,” Hill explained.

But the CSO also acknowledged the need for an agile workforce, responsive to change, pointing to Health Education England’s Genomics Education Program, created to ensure that health and care staff would have the skills and experience necessary to fully utilize genomic technologies in their work.

Separately, Genomics England announced plans to explore the public's concerns and expectations related to genomics and genomic medicine in the UK in a project that will be reviewed by an oversight group chaired by Anna Middleton, MD, Head of the Society and Ethics Research Group at the Cambridge Wellcome Genome Campus.

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