DNA tests predicted to transform next 70 years of NHS

DNA tests have the potential to transform the next 70 years of NHS care thanks to work carried out by the Scottish Genomes Partnership, a collaboration of the countries universities.

Vicki Brown is among those who could benefit from DNA tests and their transformation of the NHS. Picture: Neil Hanna

Patients in Scotland are set to benefit from a revolution in personalised healthcare, thanks to major investments in gene sequencing technology. Researchers say pioneering techniques that can sequence a person’s entire genetic make-up in under three days have the potential to transform patient care in the coming decades.

The setting up of two cutting-edge centres for genome sequencing, in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the contribution of NHS staff from across Scotland, have laid the foundations that will make the transformation possible.

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Work carried out by the Scottish Genomes Partnership, a collaboration led by the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee and NHS Scotland, has given researchers unprecedented access to sequencing technologies.

Findings from the project are already helping to improve diagnoses of patients in the Scottish NHS, as well as advancing the understanding of rare and common diseases including cancer.

More than 400 NHS Scotland patients and their families have now had their entire genetic make-up decoded under the scheme. NHS Scotland Regional Genetics Services have identified sufficient patients with rare inherited conditions to allocate the remainder of the 1,000 genomes available in Scotland as part of the 100,000 Genomes Project.

Prof Tim Aitman, Director of the Centre of Genomic and Experimental Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, is Co-Chair of the Scottish Genomes Partnership.

He said: “As the NHS turns 70, it is the perfect opportunity for the Scottish Genomes Partnership to highlight its hope for the future through the successful partnership between four of Scotland’s medical schools, the NHS Scotland Genetics and Laboratory services and Genomics England. This technology offers one of the biggest opportunities in today’s NHS, delivering precise molecular information that is changing the management of diseases. It could also ultimately enable prevention of diseases. We look forward to working with participants and funders to deliver the next phase of genomic medicine to the people of Scotland.”

Prof Andrew Biankin, Director of the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre at the University of Glasgow and Co-Chair of the Scottish Genomes Partnership, said: “Genomic testing allows us to start predicting which therapies will work best for an individual cancer patient, improving outcomes whilst minimising side-effects and cost.