France has joined the growing list of countries with aspirations to establish population-scale genome sequencing operations. The plan is to invest approximately $745 million to build a network of sequencing and analysis centers capable of processing the equivalent of 235,000 genomes a year by 2020.
If successful, France will make genome sequencing part of routine healthcare for people with rare diseases and patients with metastatic, refractory cancers. The expectation is that as of 2020 France will sequence 20,000 rare disease patients and their parents, resulting in this aspect of the program accounting for 60,000 of the 235,000 genomes France plans to analyze each year.
The remaining 175,000 genomes are expected to be generated by the cancer aspect of the program, which is aimed at patients with metastatic and refractory tumors. French officials expect 50,000 cancer patients to pass through this program each year from 2020 onward. The projection of 175,000 genomes includes the sequencing of transcriptomes and exomes, messenger RNA molecules and the DNA that encodes for proteins, respectively. Officials reached the 175,000 figure by converting the unit volumes for exomes and transcriptomes into the equivalent number of genomes.
France has a lot of work to do and money to spend if it is to hit these targets. As it stands, the country has the capacity to sequence 20,000 exomes and 10,000 genomes a year, according to a report published by the government. To scale up output, France is planning to establish 12 sequencing sites by 2020. The goal is to select the sites by September, have three in place by the end of the year and then add three a year from 2017 to 2019. In parallel, the team will set up two centers to perform data analysis and ensure consistency across the network of sequencing sites.
These activities represent another opportunity for genome sequencing and analysis businesses. The report setting out the strategy refers repeatedly to the model established by Genomics England for the 100,000 Genomes Project. Genomics England has relied on Illumina ($ILMN) for sequencing capacity and worked with multiple companies on the data management and analysis aspects of its program. The French report lists contacting Genomics England to discuss its approach to industrial relationships as a near-term priority.