The Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, Jamie Hepburn announced the funding today (Tuesday 1 March) ahead of a parliamentary reception to highlight Rare Disease Day.
The announcement follows on from £4 million investment that was announced by the First Minister for the Scottish Precision Medicine Ecosystem, which will work closely with the SGP, and £3.5 million funds for industry-led projects in Genomic Medicine contributed by Scottish Enterprise.
Mr Hepburn said: “This is a really exciting announcement. Through our investment in the Scottish Genomes Partnership and the collaboration with the Medical Research Council and Genomics England, NHS Scotland may be able to offer more rapid diagnosis to rare disease patients or a diagnosis where one hasn’t been possible before, improving the lives of patients with these conditions.”
The SGP is a collaboration of Scottish Universities and the NHS capitalising on £15 million investment in whole genome sequencing technology by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Scottish Government is contributing £4 million of the funding and the Medical Research Council, £2 million.
It is hoped that by combining knowledge of the whole genome sequence – or the entire genetic code – of patients and information from their health records, genetic diseases can be understood better and new ways to test, manage and treat these diseases devised.
SGP will be using this technology for genomic research on rare diseases, cancers and Scottish populations, and to work with Genomics England on the diagnosis of patients in Scotland with rare genetic diseases.
Mr Hepburn added: “Allied to our investment in SGP’s genomic research programmes, the new knowledge gained can improve our understanding and help the development of new tests, drugs and treatment strategies for rare diseases and cancers to benefit patients. This investment in cutting edge science can also create new opportunities for research and the life sciences sector, and enhance Scotland’s reputation for clinical research and innovation.”
The Scottish Genomes Partnership was founded following a £15m investment by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow in January 2015. This initial funding enabled the Universities to partner with Illumina for the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment for sequencing human genomes. The equipment enables researchers and clinicians in Scotland to study the genomes of both healthy and sick people on a large scale and faster than before.
SGP will start March 1 2016 and is aiming to enrol the first patients from NHS Scotland during summer 2016.
Professor Anna Dominiczak, Vice-Principal and Head of the University of Glasgow’s College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences said: “We are very pleased and proud to be a partner in the Scottish Genomes Partnership, and welcome this further investment into the future of precision medicine in Scotland.
“The SGP will play a significant role within the recently-established Scottish Ecosystem for Precision Medicine, which will co-ordinate clinical, laboratory and informatics resources and opportunities across Scotland.
“Through collaborations like the SGP, and a partnership with Precision Medicine Catapult to lead the National Centre of Excellence, Scotland will be at the forefront of developing cutting-edge precision medicine technologies, with the aim to deliver the right drug for the right patient at the right time.
“We’re extremely proud to playing a leading role in the SGP, and the wider Scottish Precision Medicine Ecosystem.”
Dr Nathan Richardson, Head of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at the Medical Research Council said: “We are extremely pleased to be jointly investing with the Scottish Government to help support their ambitions in genomic medicine. This is part of a broader MRC ambition to enhance investment in genome research across the UK and complement our major investment in Genomics England Ltd.
“Recent technological advances in genome sequencing alongside developments in assimilating and interrogating vast and complex data sets offers exciting opportunities to better understand disease and improve precision healthcare. It is quite apt that this announcement comes on Rare Disease Day as this new funding embodies our continuing commitment to investigate the root cause human diseases and improve human health.”
Chief Scientist at Genomics England, Professor Mark Caulfield said: “I am delighted that Scotland is joining the 100,000 Genomes Project. This will bring new diagnoses for patients with rare disease and extends the benefits further across the UK.”