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Norfolk could reap benefits of £300 million DNA project to help find a cure for cancer and other rare diseases

PUBLISHED: 08:04 01 August 2014 | UPDATED: 11:20 01 August 2014

George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences, unveils the plaque to open the new Centrum Building at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: Denise Bradley

George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences, unveils the plaque to open the new Centrum Building at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: Denise Bradley

copyright: Archant 2014

Better diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases and cancer could be created through a £300m project launched today – and Norfolk is perfectly placed to reap the benefits, life sciences minister George Freeman has claimed.

The four-year project will see scientists decode 100,000 patients personal DNA codes by 2017 in a bid to understand more about how disease works.

The Wellcome Trust has created a sequencing hub at its Genome Campus near Cambridge.

Mr Freeman, who is also MP for Mid-Norfolk, said: “This is also fantastic news for jobs in Norfolk, with centres of excellence like the Norwich Research Park and local companies like Anglia DNA both helping to find new cures for diseases and creating the job opportunities of the future, making our area the go-to centre for research and investment in medical genomics.

“As part of one of the premier life science hubs in the world in the Eastern region, Norfolk is perfectly placed to reap the benefits from this global life sciences revolution.

“As a Norfolk MP and the new Minister for Life Sciences, I believe this is a once-in-a-generation chance for our region.”

Federica Di Palma, Director Science at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) on the Norwich Research Park, said: “This is an exceptional effort that will set us apart from the rest of the world for genomics research. With our unique NHS structure in place, I think it’s an extraordinary project for the UK. We look forward to playing a role and contributing to the cancer and rare disease genetic research from the Norwich Research Park.”

The Prime Minister has unveiled a new partnership between Genomics England and the company Illumina which will see it invest around £162 million into the work in England over four years.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “As our plan becomes a reality, I believe we will be able to transform how devastating diseases are diagnosed and treated in the NHS and across the world, while supporting our best scientists and life science businesses to discover the next wonder drug or breakthrough technology.”

NHS England has started the process of selecting the first NHS Genomics Medicine Centres. Successful centres will help to progress this ambitious project by inviting cancer and rare disease patients to take part to have their genome sequenced.

Participation in the project will be based on consent, and people’s data will be strictly protected through Genomics England’s secure data services.

Sir John Chisholm, Executive Chair of Genomics England said: “This is a real milestone in turning this ambitious project into what we always intended which is a world leading project capable of delivering immense benefit to current and future patients.”

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