Health secretary sequenced genome for health disparities project
- The Secretary of Health and Social Affairs provided a blood sample in Great Ormond Street for the genomic sequencing program
- Genomics England’s Diverse Data initiative aims to reduce disparities in healthcare
Health and Social Affairs Secretary Sajid Javid today visited Great Ormond Street Hospital to provide a blood sample for a genomic sequencing program aimed at addressing health disparities.
Genomics England’s Diverse Data Initiative is working with researchers and the NHS to ensure that their life-changing work to sequence genomes benefits everyone, regardless of their socio-economic or geographic background.
Its data will be analyzed by researchers to help speed up diagnoses and develop new treatments for cancer and rare disease patients as part of ongoing efforts to make healthcare more diverse and inclusive.
Secretary of State Sajid Javid said:
“I am extremely proud to participate in this study, which helps ensure that everyone, regardless of their background, can benefit from our leading genomics research programs.
“Genomics England’s vital initiative will sequence the genomes of those who are under-represented in research data so that we can develop better treatments and transform healthcare for all. “
To date, studies of human genetics have often been based on volunteers of European descent, meaning these communities may not be benefiting from the genomic healthcare revolution. It has also contributed to the misdiagnosis of gene-disease relationships, poor “generalization” of research results across different populations, and significant barriers to the safe and effective translation of genomic research into clinical care for all.
Genomics England helps reduce health inequalities by working in partnership with communities to analyze data from an increasingly diverse population, to rapidly improve the representation of under-represented groups in genetic data sets and the research.
Chris Wigley, CEO of Genomics England, said:
“Genomics has the potential to transform healthcare. Technology can provide new and faster diagnoses and enable the development of life-changing treatments for people with rare diseases, cancer and other conditions.
“However, it has to work for all of us, and those with non-European ancestors have been under-represented in the research data and therefore may not reap the same benefits as it becomes mainstream of patient care. Thanks to our Diverse Data Initiative, we are making significant progress in addressing this issue. “
By participating in the initiative, the Secretary of Health is now part of a community of research participants whose data is stored securely and anonymously by Genomics England among more than 140,000 human genomes.
His blood sample will now be mapped by a sequencing lab at the Sanger Center near Cambridge and stored in the National Genomic Research Library, alongside other participants in the 100,000 Genomes Project and the GenOMICC COVID-19 study.
The new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) – launched October 1 – will lead national efforts to improve public health by preventing disease and helping people of all ages and in all parts of the country lead healthier lives.
The OHID will be a core part of the Department of Health and Social Affairs and lead the government-wide prevention agenda to reduce health disparities, many of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.