The personalised medicine revolution is well under way, and the UK has found itself at the forefront. Projects like the 100,000 genomes project are pushing boundaries in personalised medicine by sequencing entire genetic sequences on an enormous scale, and with unprecedented momentum. While their ultimate goal is to sequence 100,000 genomes from around 70,000 individuals with rare diseases, they have already sequenced 9892. This has already translated to patient benefit, powerfully shown by the case of Jessica Wright.
While this project is an obvious example of the pioneering nature of personalised medicine in the UK, the story runs much deeper than that. The UK is also leading biomarker discovery research, which allows the identification of which parts of the genome can be used to predict which therapies an individual is likely to respond to. When implemented in clinic, this allows a patients treatment regime to be better tailored to their needs and improves their overall outlook.
The key to performing world-class research into biomarker discovery is ultimately down to patient samples. Herein lies the secret of success for the UK’s personalised medicine research: the NHS. The NHS is a unique resource, in that it has universal coverage across the UK. No matter what class or creed you are, you have access to the NHS, and will receive the same world-class treatment for free. As well as being voted the best healthcare system in the world in 2014, this set up also provides an unparalleled environment for medical research. Patients from across the country, and from all walks of life, can be recruited into research studies focusing on understanding diseases, or finding better ways to treat them. Partnerships between the NHS and researchers (both commercial and academic) have allowed extraordinary innovation and are no doubt at the core of our success in personalised medicine research.
Ultimately the NHS is a crucial and unrivalled resource for personalised medicine research which should be nurtured and protected- for our benefit, but more importantly, for generations to come.