George Freeman highlights groundbreaking 100,000 Genomes Project attracting investment

22nd March 2016

George Freeman highlights UK groundbreaking 100,000 Genomes Project and the launch of 13 genomics medicine centres in the NHS which are winning international plaudits and attracting inward investment.

100,000 Genomes Project

6. Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con): What progress the 100,000 Genomes Project has made on providing UK leadership for international developments in precision medicine. [904255]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences (George Freeman): Our groundbreaking 100,000 Genomes Project, which was announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as part of our 10-year life sciences strategy, represents the moonshot of medicine in making the UK the first nation on earth to sequence the entire genetic sequence of 100,000 genomes from NHS patients. Through our precision medicine strategy, the launch of 13 genomics medicine centres in the NHS, funding from Government and the precision medicine catapult, we are winning international plaudits and attracting inward investment, as a sign of our commitment to a 21st century NHS.

Maggie Throup: I recently visited the medical school in Nottingham where I saw the great work being carried out, including groundbreaking genomics work on identifying Alzheimer’s risk genes. What support is the Department providing to ensure that work is fully funded and expanded, so that the east midlands and the UK continue to be world leaders in the search for treatments and ultimately a cure for Alzheimer’s, based on our research?

George Freeman: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who had a distinguished career in the life science sector, including through setting up her own business. She is right to highlight the work at Nottingham University which, along with Leicester and Birmingham, represents something of an east midlands powerhouse. The Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust is part of the East of England NHS Genomic Medicine Centre, recruiting patients and becoming one of our hubs for NHS genomics medicine. In addition, we are actively supporting research into Alzheimer’s through our £1 billion a year National Institute for Health Research budget, the £150 million Dementia Research Institute and our dementia plan. I continue to lead conversations with dementia charities.

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Mesothelioma Research

13. Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): What recent representations he has received on the future funding of mesothelioma research. [904262]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences (George Freeman): I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. Mesothelioma is a terrible disease from which more than 3,000 people die in this country every year. The Government are completely committed to supporting treatment, prevention and compensation. In the last three months my noble Friend Lord Prior has had a number of discussions with interested parties, and, as the hon. Gentleman will have noted, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was able to announce £5 million of funding for a new mesothelioma research centre in last week’s Budget.

Alex Cunningham: The British Lung Foundation has welcomed the £5 million that the Government have announced for a national mesothelioma centre, but when will those funds be released, and how will the Government ensure that funding for research is sustained in the years that follow?

George Freeman: We are engaged in active discussions with the various parties, including charities such as Cancer Research UK, and we have received some interesting submissions from some of the research institutes. Over the coming weeks, we will consider how best to put that £5 million from the Government to work in order to maximise inward investment and build UK leadership in this important centre.

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Topical Questions

T9. [904248] Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating chief executive Glen Burley and the whole team at Warwick hospital on delivering the new excellent orthopaedic ward, which I was honoured to be invited to open? Will he tell the House what support the NHS is being given for similar state-of-the-art facilities across the country?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences (George Freeman): I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in that congratulation and to confirm the announcement in the autumn statement that the Government are committed to putting £4.8 billion of capital into the NHS every year through to 2021. That will include funding for proton beam therapy and for major new hospitals at Brighton and at Sandwell in addition to our billion pounds a year for NHS research and our £700 million a year for medical research through the Medical Research Council.

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Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): Families with boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy are anxiously waiting the NICE guidance to be published next week. Can I get an assurance from the Minister that, with this drug already being licensed and available in 18 countries, if NICE approves it, NHS England will bring the funding forward very quickly?

George Freeman: The hon. Gentleman is a doughty campaigner. Although he tempts me to pre-empt the decisions of NICE, I cannot, and it would not be appropriate for me to do so. I am afraid that we will just have to wait for its decisions, which are rightly taken on the best clinical evidence.

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