Today the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, published her annual report “Generation Genome” - with a call to embrace genome sequencing and mainstream it into modern health care.
The report highlights the many areas to which genetic sequencing can be applied, from creating new therapies for genetic disorders and improving diagnostic times, to finding out what makes a pathogen deadly and able to spread.
“Generation Genome” is a call to clinical staff, managers and the Government to work together to make wider use of revolutionary genetics techniques in the battle of key health problems, including how to improve cancer survival rates and identify rare diseases faster so patients can get the right care at the earliest opportunity.
Among the many contributors to the Chief Medical Officer’s report were Scientists from The Pirbright Institute; Dr Donald King, Head of the Vesicular Disease Reference Laboratory and Dr Mark Fife, Head of the Genetics and Genomics Group. Genome sequencing is an integral part of the research that Pirbright carries out, and the report highlights examples of how sequencing technologies can contribute to monitoring and combatting viral diseases.
The Institute is home to several reference laboratories, including the World and European Reference Laboratories for foot-and-mouth disease and Reference Laboratories for bluetongue and African swine fever. Understanding the genetic differences between viruses during outbreaks is crucial for discovering where different strains are circulating worldwide, and help determine what methods would be most effective for their control.
Dr King said: “By revealing the unique genomes inside each virus sample, genetic sequencing technologies enable us to rapidly identify strains and precisely trace where they originated from. This information gives us the ability to map outbreaks at high resolution, predict how the viruses could spread in the future and select appropriate measures, such as vaccines, to control these diseases”.
“Using genome sequencing in this way is an approach that has also been applied to human diseases, such as the Ebola outbreak from 2014-2015. It is encouraging that the Chief Medical Officer has recognised in her report that genetic sequencing is a technology that should be used and embraced to advance the control of human and animal diseases.”