Genetic testing for people in Yorkshire and the North East is set to be transformed following the announcement of a new genomics laboratory hub for the region.
A major new partnership will provide the new laboratory hub, which will be at the centre of a network made up of NHS organisations in the area, including Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the Sheffield Teaching and Children’s Hospitals and NewGene – a spin out company between the Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle University set up specifically to pioneer new genomic testing.
Known as the Yorkshire and North East Genomic Laboratory Hub, it is one of seven newly commissioned genomic laboratory hubs across the country, announced by NHS England.
The partnership will be one of the largest providers of genomic testing in the UK, focussing on delivering a range of specialised services in Sheffield (neurology, musculoskeletal, gastro-hepatology, respiratory and haematology), inherited cancers, specialist genetic testing and next generation sequencing in Leeds and genome sequencing for mitochondrial conditions in Newcastle.
Professor Sir John Burn, Chairman for the Newcastle Hospitals and a consultant geneticist specialising in cancer genetics, said: “I am delighted that Newcastle Hospitals will hold the contract for the Genomics Laboratory Hub across Yorkshire & Humber, North East and Cumbria: one of seven hubs of the new NHS England Genomics Laboratory Service. Our collective population is equivalent to Scotland and Wales combined.
“The partnership across Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle forms the foundation for a closer working relationship between our three cities across the NHS and academia, and is an exciting venture for us all. Our model ensures delivery of services across all three sites with the high throughput laboratory hosted in Leeds, as well as expert interpretation and specialised testing spread across the three hospital centres: Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle.
“It’s worth remembering Leeds and Newcastle were the first two centres to introduce “next generation” sequencers into diagnostics a decade ago and successfully shared samples to improve efficiency through the GenLYNC consortium, created as part of our LIFE Genetic Knowledge Park 15 years ago.”
Dr Yvette Oade, Chief Medical Officer for Leeds Teaching Hospitals, added: “It is really exciting that Leeds is one of the key partners of the new genomics laboratory hub for Yorkshire and the North East. This partnership will allow us to work more closely with colleagues in Sheffield and Newcastle to improve services for patients in our region but also lead the way for future developments in genomics.”
The national hub and network model will not only improve patient access for genetic testing, but will also support the development of more personalised healthcare, as well as consolidating tests across the three sites making more efficient use of resources whilst not affecting the diagnostic pathway.
The ultimate ambition is for patients of all ages with rare inherited diseases and cancer to be diagnosed and treated quicker than ever before, wherever they live.
“Genomic medicine is increasingly bringing the benefits of personalised medicine to our patients and so it is important that collectively we continue to pioneer this area of medicine,” continued Dr David Throssell, Medical Director, Sheffield Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“The partnership between Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Leeds Hospitals, Sheffield Children’s Hospital and Newcastle Hospitals in the form of the new Genomic laboratory is another important step forward for our local population in terms of access to specialist genetic testing and interpretation.”
Jeff Perring, Medical Director at Sheffield Children’s added: “This partnership is fantastic for the people of this region, helping both children and adults. The region has strong genomics expertise and by working together we can usher in a new era of healthcare.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I’m proud to announce we are expanding our 100,000 Genome Project so that one million whole genomes will now be sequenced by the NHS and the UK Biobank.
“I’m incredibly excited about the potential for this type of technology to improve the diagnosis and treatment for patients to help people live longer, healthier lives, a vital part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS.
“Today’s commitments form part of our bold aspiration to sequence five million genomes in the UK, using ground-breaking technology to do this within an unprecedented five-year period.”
Notes for Editors
Genetic testing can be used to find out whether or not a person has inherited a specific altered gene (genetic mutation) that causes a particular medical condition. Testing usually involves having a blood or tissue sample taken. The sample will consist of cells containing a person’s DNA.
The new service will allow clinicians to access testing for over 500 conditions seven days a week, with some results being available in as little as three days. It will also enable the identification of gene mutations in cancer cells which can be targeted by new drug therapies.
The new laboratory hub will be delivered across the partner trusts involved to ensure rapid access to existing diagnostic services, as well as developing new tests, and attracting the brightest and best clinical academic talent to the region.
The new laboratory hubs form part of a range of measures to revolutionise patient care through the NHS’s continued use of genomic medicine, including the sequencing of one million whole genomes.
This builds on the 100,000 Genomes Project , which was launched in 2012 to achieve the target of sequencing 100,000 whole human genomes. This is delivered in the North East by the Northern Genetics Service based at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.
Clinical lead for Newcastle’s genetic services Dr Paul Brennen adds: “The North East of England has been a key player in the development of genetics science and medicine over the past 25 years. Not only do we have a purpose-built genomics campus at the International Centre for Life, but a diverse range of specialist doctors and research scientists working hard to push back the frontiers of knowledge to help NHS patients affected with genetic diseases.
“Newcastle University was one of the first organisations to take part in the pilot phase of the 100,000 Genomes Project and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust soon followed into the main programme of the project with NHS partners across the region.
“Together we are embarking on a new and exciting challenge: to help make the NHS the first health service in the world to adopt whole genome sequencing as a standard test for many people with either hereditary disease or cancer, enabling the delivery of truly personalised medicine.