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UK Unveils $523M Investment in 100,000 Genomes Project; Illumina is Key Partner

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – UK Prime Minster David Cameron today unveiled a £311 million ($523 million) investment package that includes a partnership between Genomics England and Illumina and will fund its national genome sequencing initiative, the 100,000 Genomes Project.

The UK created Genomics England as a company wholly owned by the Department of Health to oversee its effort to sequence and analyze the genomes of 100,000 people, a project that aims to advance the larger goal of integrating genomic medicine into the National Health Service.

Under the plan announced today, Illumina will receive £78 million to support Genomics England with whole genome sequencing services, infrastructure, and expertise. In turn, Illumina has pledged to invest £162 million into the work in England over a four-year period. As reported by GenomeWeb Daily News in early July, the UK chose Illumina to be its preferred partner in the 100,000 Genomes Project.

"As our plan becomes a reality, I believe we will be able to transform how devastating diseases are diagnosed and treated in the NHS and across the world, while supporting our best scientists and life science businesses to discover the next wonder drug or breakthrough technology," Cameron said in a statement.

"This is a momentous day for the UK to push the boundaries of medical science and create the first comprehensive national program for genomic healthcare," Illumina CEO Jay Flatley added.

Cameron also announced that The Wellcome Trust has agreed to spend £27 million on a genome sequencing hub to be located at its Genome Campus, near Cambridge, which will house Genomics England's operations.

The Medical Research Council has earmarked £24 million to provide computing services needed to analyze and interpret the genomic data the project generates. In addition, NHS England will contribute up to £20 million to fund the project, and it has already started the process of selecting the first NHS Genomics Medicine Centres, which will invite patients with cancer and rare diseases to have their genomics sequenced.

"This is a real milestone in turning this ambitious project into what we always intended, which is a world-leading project capable of delivering immense benefit to current and future patients," Genomics England Executive Chair John Chisholm said.

The 100,000 Genomes Project is currently in a pilot phase. The UK government expects to fully launch the project in 2015 and to complete sequencing of the 100,000 genomes by 2017.