The United Kingdom has committed a further $375 million to its massive sequencing initiative, the 100,000 Genomes Project. Government officials are making the extra cash available to finance the introduction of whole-genome sequencing into the National Health Service (NHS).
To date, the genome project has focused on establishing the infrastructure and processes to support population-scale sequencing, from the recruitment of participants and taking of samples through to the analysis and interpretation of data. The scope, while huge by the standards of what has come before, is limited to sequencing about 70,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases before 2017. With the arrival of the $375 million funding boost, the government is looking beyond 2017 to a time when whole-genome sequencing forms part of the service provided by the NHS.
George Osborne, who oversees the finances of the U.K. government, revealed the funding boost as part of a commitment to invest $7.5 billion in health R&D. Going into the budget review, scientists were worried they, like many others who rely on public funding in their work, would be hit by deep cuts. However, while the full implications of the budget will only become clear with time, a promise to have the science budget rise in line with inflation at a time when Osborne is wielding the ax in other areas meant most initial reactions were positive.
"The Chancellor's commitment to science was again clear," Nicola Perrin, head of policy at the Wellcome Trust, told The Guardian. Sequencing was one of several fields to receive a funding boost. "He explicitly recognized the importance of backing science, with medical research in genomics, drug-resistant infection and dementia all mentioned specifically," Perrin said.