The UK has a historic partnership with Thailand to boost genetics expertise

UK patients will benefit from a new partnership with Thailand to collaborate on sharing genome sequencing expertise, research, education and training opportunities, knowledge exchange and genomic data processing.

Yesterday afternoon (Thursday 19 January), the MoU was signed by UK Health Minister Lord Nick Markham CBE and Thai Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister HE Anutin Charnvirakul. Both countries are committed to working together on genetics and understanding rare and undiagnosed diseases and cancer, as well as strengthening academic and institutional ties through working groups that could start in February 2023.

The collaboration will allow the two countries to better share information on genomics, including Genomics Thailand’s 50,000 Genomes initiative and the pioneering British 100,000 Genomes project led by Genomics UK.

Genomic sequencing can speed cancer diagnosis, ensure patients with treatable diseases receive treatment sooner, and improve our understanding of how health outcomes differ by race to address disparities.

One of the key lessons learned from the Covid pandemic is that working with international partners is critical to building our own resilience to health threats. Thailand has cutting-edge capabilities in genetics, so this historic new partnership will help expand the UK’s expertise in this area and cement our position as a global life sciences powerhouse.

Genomics has the potential to revolutionize healthcare in the UK and around the world, so it is great to partner with Thailand in this exciting partnership. Both countries share a common goal of improving our health systems with innovative technology and scientific understanding to reduce inequities and ultimately save lives.

We look forward to working closely with our Thai colleagues to strengthen our ability to provide diagnoses and develop cutting-edge treatments for rare diseases.

By sharing knowledge, exploring training opportunities and launching collaborative research initiatives, we can collaborate to achieve better health outcomes at lower costs. »

Lord Nick Markham CBE, British Health Minister

Dame Jenny Harris, Director General of England’s Health Protection Agency, said:

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“Improving the world’s capacity to monitor and detect new emerging pathogens is essential to global health security. The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated how important genetic surveillance is in identifying and preparing for new global public health threats.

“International cooperation is an important element in building this capacity. I welcome this agreement with the Thai government, which will strengthen the ability to closely monitor and respond to emerging health threats. I look forward to fruitful and effective cooperation. »

HE Anutin Charnvirakul, Minister of Public Health and Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, said:

“This is the first partnership between the Thai Department of Public Health and the UK Department of Health and Social Care. This marks an important step towards cooperation in genetics between the two countries.

“In mutual interest, Thailand and the UK will come together to share knowledge and best practices in genetic medicine, including data processing, to help treat and protect diseases that we have not been able to do before.”

Genomics UK Scientific Director, Professor Matt Brown said:

“The potential for genomics to revolutionize the way we deliver healthcare is great, and we are already beginning to see this transformative science being adopted in many areas of medicine. We are excited to partner with Thailand and share our knowledge and experience to realize the promise of genomics and bring benefits to patients around the world.” »

Building on the success of the 100,000 Genomes project, which has already helped to diagnose rare diseases in hundreds of children, the government recently allocated new funding to genomics to ensure a better quality of life for UK patients. In December 2022, £175 million of new genomics funding was delivered, ensuring a better quality of life for our patients, creating NHS center stage and cementing our position as a life sciences powerhouse.

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The funding will build on the cutting-edge work of the NHS Genomic Medicine Service, using innovation to drive improvements across the health system.

The funding also includes £25 million from UKRI-MRC for a new UK-wide initiative in functional genomics, an area of ​​genetics research that uses molecular tools such as gene editing to improve understanding of how genetic variation drives disease. Support better diagnosis. and the discovery of new treatments.

The MoU builds on the life sciences vision set for 2021, which is committed to delivering a world-class offering in functional genomics and positions the UK in a strong position to be a leader in this domain.

Notes for Teachers:

The NHS Genomics Clinical Service aims to enable the NHS to harness the power of genomics technology and science to improve the health of our people and meet the NHS’ long-term plan commitments:

  • It is the first national health system to offer whole genome sequencing as part of routine care, including for children with cancer or critically ill children with genetic disorders.
  • Increase access to molecular diagnostics and systematically offer genetic testing to all cancer patients.
  • Improving early detection and treatment of high-risk conditions, including expanding genetic testing for familial hypocholesterolemia.
  • Combining and correlating genetic data to develop new treatments, new diagnostic approaches, and help patients make informed decisions about their care.

These commitments will be supported by the NHS Genetics Clinical Service for England:

  • Consistent and equitable care for the country’s 55 million people.
  • Work in accordance with common national standards, specifications and protocols.
  • To provide a national repository of genetic testing that includes the use of all technologies from targeted genetic testing to whole genome sequencing.
  • Give all patients the opportunity to participate in research for their own personal benefit and to inform future care for other patients.
  • Create a national genomics knowledge base to provide real-world data to inform academic and industrial research and development.
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