A £15 million university project has been set up to enable more precise medical diagnoses and more personalised treatment for patients.
The investment in gene sequencing technology will see experts from the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow working together to study the genomes of both healthy and sick people on a large scale.
The initial focus of the project will be on rapid screening of cancer patients, diagnosing childhood illnesses, disorders of the central nervous system and population studies, the Scottish Genomes Partnership said.
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, according to the project.
It will also build understanding of the causes of rare and common diseases, opening the door to the development of new treatments.
The universities are to work with US-based company Illumina, which will install 15 state-of-the-art sequencing instruments between two hubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The equipment will allow clinicians to study the entire genetic make-up of a person for less than £750.
The University of Glasgow’s Wolfson Wohl Cancer Centre and Edinburgh Genomics, the UK’s largest university-based gene sequencing facility, will be at the centre of the project.
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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.
“This will add significant value to Glasgow’s investment in the South Glasgow University Hospital and will allow us to select the best treatment for individual patients.”
In future, the partnership also plan to study the genomes of plants and livestock for agricultural research.
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