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France Plans to Invest €670M in Genomics, Personalized Medicine

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The French government announced that it plans to invest €670 million ($760.8 million) in a genomics and personalized medicine program meant to improve the diagnosis and prevention of disease in the country.

The effort is aiming for the establishment of 12 sequencing platforms throughout the country, and two national centers for genomic expertise and data analysis that will ensure the platforms are consistent and regularly updated. The government will establish an inter-ministerial strategic committee, presided over by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, to monitor the implementation of the program.

The efforts will concentrate initially on cancer, diabetes, and rare diseases. After 2020, the effort will be opened up to common diseases as well.

Of the €670 million being invested in the first five years, around €230 million will come from industry in order to facilitate private-public R&D partnerships.  

"France is strongly committed to the personalized medicine revolution," said French Health Minister Marisol Touraine in a statement. "In order to care for each patient in a personalized manner, we must first understand each individual's genome."

The government has released a report detailing results from a year-long investigation into the feasibility of such an effort, which it has named France Genomic Medicine 2025. In response to similar genomic medicine programs being launched in the UK, the US, and China, Valls asked the National Alliance for Life Science and Health (AVIESAN) — a consortium of some of the country's biggest science and biomedical research centers — to examine the possibilities for France to widen access to genetic medicine within 10 years.

An inter-disciplinary team of researchers, healthcare experts, industry participants, and government ministers worked together to develop the "French model" presented in the government's report. They detailed the challenges inherent in genomic research and its medical applications, as well as the economic ramifications for such a program and what will be needed to disseminate new genomic discoveries to the public in a timely manner.

The plan also details the technological infrastructure the country will need to build in order to sequence genomes, store the massive amounts of data that will be generated, analyze the information, and return it to doctors and patients in a secure manner.

Overall, the reports lays out three objectives for the first 10 years of the program. The first objective is to make France a leader among the countries already laying the groundwork for genomic medicine. Second, is to prepare for the integration of genomic medicine into the normal course of patient care in the country, which means sequencing about 235,000 genomes per year by 2020. And the third goal is to establish a national genomic medicine industry to serve as a source of innovation and economic growth.

There is also a need to develop an ethical framework around the program. "We cannot develop an effective program for personalized medicine without also responding to the numerous questions posed by our citizens," the report said. "Genomic medicine is a revolution in healthcare and prevention. France must give herself the means to succeed in this revolution."