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UK Health Security Agency Publishes Five-Year Pathogen Genomics Plan

NEW YORK – The UK Health Security Agency has published a report describing its new programmatic approach to pathogen genomics.

The new strategy, published on Wednesday, includes a five-year plan by the agency, a division of the Department of Health and Social Care responsible for public health in the UK, to integrate genomics into every aspect of infectious disease control, giving priority to vaccine-preventable diseases, emerging infections, and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Overall, the strategy will develop accredited, resilient genomic services that lead to improved clinical care and provide cost-effective and demonstrable public health benefits, the UKHSA said. It will also provide a framework for sharing infrastructure and expertise and set the direction for how the agency will invest in and transform the use of pathogen genomics in response to infectious public health threats.

"Implementing our genomics strategy will require investment in our workforce, laboratories, data and analytics capabilities, and collaboration with the [National Health Service], academia, and industry," Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at UKHSA, said in the document.

The plan sets out seven strategic aims: using genomic data to optimize clinical and public health decision-making; using genomic data to drive improvements in diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics; providing a nationally coordinated, high-throughput pathogen genomics sequencing and analysis service; undertaking a genomics workforce transformation within and beyond UKHSA; committing to pathogen genomic data sharing and global collaboration; driving innovation in pathogen genomics; and building high-impact services that are good value for the money.

The plan also includes governance and oversight mechanisms, plans for staff training and retention, and strategies for accountability.

For the three priority areas, pathogen genomics applied to AMR will elucidate resistance mechanisms and transmission patterns, enabling targeted infection control and antimicrobial stewardship to preserve antibiotic efficacy. In emerging infections and biosecurity, pathogen genomics will serve as an early warning system by facilitating detection and identification of new or variant pathogens to guide public health responses. For vaccine-preventable diseases, pathogen genomics will be used to improve vaccine efficacy and enhance population immunity.