UK government to fund £37M into data-driven initiatives

UK health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock has outlined the government’s commitment to bolster the UK life sciences sector and build on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) annual conference last week, Hancock pledged £37 million for genomics projects and for data-driven initiatives delivered through the Genome UK Implementation Plan and the UK Functional Genomics Initiative, which was launched in September 2019.

WHY IT MATTERS

The pledge aims to make the UK a global leader in manufacturing for medicines, grow UK-based business and encourage investment. Through these investments, patients are set to benefit from better research, treatment, care and improved clinical decision-making.

Genomics England projects supporting the implementation of the Genome UK strategy will receive £17 million to explore the potential value of newborn sequencing, contributing to the increase in data from ethnic minorities in genomic cohorts and data sets, and supporting a new approach to cancer diagnosis.

Hancock explained that new support for the UK Functional Genomics Initiative will drive new approaches to improve our understanding of how genetic changes cause disease. Genomics sequencing will be used as part of everyday diagnosis and treatment, giving doctors the tools to make better clinical decisions.

The remaining £20 million will be invested in initiatives to harness UK health data for life sciences research. This will include investment clinical trials and funding to develop medicines, vaccines and health technologies to support research such as the COVID vaccine trials, and studies supporting the earlier detection of disease.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

In related news, researchers from Cambridge University have used data from NHS cancer patient samples sequenced through the 100,000 Genomes Project, to improve the personalisation of cancer therapies.  

In another recent healthcare initiative, Hancock announced that 30 trusts will join the Digital Aspirant programme and that seven trusts will receive up to £6 million over the next three years as part of the programme.

ON THE RECORD

Hancock said: “We’ve learned a huge amount this last year – and we’ve learned a lot about how to make things happen. It’s one of the things I want to address today. How we’ve managed to accelerate things, that often happens in a crisis, but crucially, we’ve got to hold on to those things and translate the lessons we’ve learned, especially from the things that have gone well – the discovery of dexamethasone, our vaccines project…

“The public has never been more engaged in health research – never has the public been more engaged about health research – so let’s harness this enthusiasm. Tackling COVID has been a global mission – but there are so many other noble missions that still lie ahead. I am sure you can think of those that you are most focused on. Tackling cancer. Treatments for dementia. Preventing heart disease. So much more…

“It’s no longer about getting us back to where we were – it’s about charting a new and better course, where we learn the lessons of the pandemic, and build back better, to transform the UK into a life sciences superpower. That is what we can do. I know it’s an ambition you all share.”

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