The National Health Service in England is to offer healthy individuals the option of paying to have their genomes analyzed, the Guardian reports. It notes that seriously ill children and adults would still be able to have this analysis for free.
Matthew Hancock, the health secretary, says these "genomic volunteers" — both those who pay for the service together with the ill individuals — would enable NHS researchers to develop new treatments, according to the Guardian. In particular, it says NHS researchers would analyze these individuals' genomes to try to predict their risk of developing certain conditions.
"While healthy people should not have this service free on the NHS, there are huge benefits to sequencing as many genomes as we can," Hancock tells BBC News. "Every genome sequenced moves us a step closer to unlocking life-saving treatments."
However, critics say the results have the potential to be misinterpreted, according to the Guardian. "You can use genetic code to confirm a clinical picture, but you can't use it to predict what will happen in the future very accurately," Anneke Lucassen, chair of the British Society for Genetic Medicine, tells the BBC.
BBC News also notes that there are still many uncertainties about the proposed service, including its cost.