U.K. genomics database plan faces hurdles

Now that the cost of sequencing DNA is quickly plummeting toward $1,000, some scientists in the U.K. are backing a plan to put citizens' genomic data into a national database. Advocates argue that the DNA database would help deliver on the promise of genomics in healthcare, but critics point out the potential high cost of the endeavor and question the utility of the database, The Telegraph reports.

The U.K.'s Human Genomics Strategy Group, which has written a report on the topic, is backing the plan for a national genomics database. Patients would benefit from their doctor having the data to tailor treatments according to their genetic traits, while pharma companies could tap the resource to aid in the development of new drugs. "It's almost impossible to go forward with the whole personalized medicine agenda, unless you have this database," Sir John Bell, chair of the group, said, as quoted by The Telegraph.

Too bad the costs of the IT infrastructure that would be needed to support such a database aren't falling as fast as the cost of whole genome sequencing, which can now be done for around $5,000 per genome. Then there are questions about what value can now be drawn from having the sequencing data on an individual. So many mysteries still lie within a person's genome, so sequencing it doesn't immediately mean that the data can be used in medicine. In cancer treatment, however, genetic data have paid off for patients and drug developers.

There are still serious questions about how far and fast the plan will advance, the U.K. newspaper reports, especially since the British government recently scrapped plans for a £12 billion IT program that involved storing everyone's electronic health records in a national database. A genomics database would involve much more complex data than that commonly found in electronic health records.

- get more in The Telegraph's article

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