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Illumina to provide sequencing for UK gene project

Genomics England wants company to sequence genomes of 100,000 NHS patients

Genomics EnglandSan Diego biotech Illumina has been picked to sequence the genomes of NHS patients in England as part of a nationwide project to make the UK a leader in personalised medicine.

Genomics England, which was set up by the UK government last year, will work with Illumina on its task to map the DNA of 100,000 people by 2017.

Illumina is one of the leading companies working in genetics and has a focus on translating information on genes into new methods of treatment.

This type of research is growing in importance for pharma companies as they focus on more personalised medicines that can target specific gene mutations and provide better outcomes for subpopulations of patients.

Cancer has emerged as one of the main areas where personalised treatments are proving to be effective, with several important new products targeting lung cancer patients with the EGFR gene mutation and breast cancer patients with the BRCA mutation.

Illumina's work in the field has made it a target for pharma companies working in personalised medicines and the company was pursued throughout 2012 by the world's leading oncology company by sales Roche (see the Top 25 Companies by Oncology Sales).

Illumina – aware of the growing value of its work – resisted these advances, however, and Roche abandoned its takeover plans at the start of 2013 after a final bid of just under $7bn.

The gene specialist will now spend the next few years working with Genomics England on its expansive genome mapping project, which is focused initially on people with rare diseases and their families, as well as patients with common cancer.

According to Genomics England, it is estimated that one in 17 people are born with, or will develop, a rare disease and at least 80 per cent of these rare diseases have an identified genetic component.

By implementing the 100,000 Genomes Project, the UK plans to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and support the development of better tests and more effective drugs.

11th July 2014

From: Research, Healthcare

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