Paul Polani, source
When the first human genome was completed in 2003 at a cost of perhaps $3 billion, the prospect of whole genome sequencing for clinical care looked remote, however the development of massively parallel so called “next generation sequencing” offered the prospect of much cheaper and more rapid sequencing. Solexa, the Cambridge company that developed the technology, was bought by the US company Illumina in 2007 and David Bentley went on to become Illumina’s chief scientist.
The Clinical Genetics Department of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital (GSTT), which had developed out of the Paediatric Research Unit, was in one the founders of a network of 23 Clinical Genetics laboratories offering DNA testing in the NHS, which developed following a 2003 government white paper.
In 2012 government announced the plan to sequence 100,000 whole genomes for clinical care, with King’s and GSTT, through the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, contributing to pilot work in collaboration with Genomics England. GSTT went on to become one of the thirteen NHS England Genome Medicine Centres during the main programme of the project.
The 100,000 genomes project was completed in 2019, demonstrating the health effectiveness of whole genome sequencing for clinical care. NHS England went on to establish the NHS Genome Medicine Service, which combines established genetics testing with whole genome sequencing options. GSTT is leading one of the seven Genome Laboratory Hubs for this service.
Genomics England turns 10 in July. The UK, with its increasing richness of clinical genomes and research cohorts such as UK Biobank, is recognised as leading the world in this space and King’s, with hundreds of researchers securely accessing these datasets, is playing a major role in improving understanding of the human genome and its interpretation for clinical care.
The NHS turns 75 on 5 July 2023. It is the only health system in the world that has integrated whole genome sequencing for standard care. The World Health Organistation (WHO) was similarly 75 this month, and starting with epidemic surveillance, is becoming much more interested in the global application of genomics technologies and data. The legacy of the structure of DNA continues to be very bright.