and Genomics England Partnership

The real reason to get excited about our partnership to improve access to immunotherapies

Nirmesh Patel
January 29, 2020
February 10, 2020

Most people would assume that the most exciting part of’s partnership announcement with Genomics England last week is that we are moving into the field of immuno-oncology. We are. It’s not. Others would assume that the most significant part is that it is a sign that Genomics England is beginning to deliver on their one of their four core aims “To kickstart the development of a UK genomics industry”. They are. It’s not. The really significant and exciting news that comes from this announcement requires a bit more digging under the surface.

The UK has been at the forefront of genomics before the word was even invented…

Since Frederick Sanger first invented the process of sequencing, to the very first human genome being sequenced at what is now rightly known as the genome campus. Fast forward several years and we reach a point in time where Genomics England has just delivered the 100,000 genomes project and the UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has announced a plan to deliver 5 million genomes over the next five years. The model has been so successful so far, that other countries are taking note and following suit.

Frederick Sanger

The question then is, “what do we do with all of these genomes?” To really answer that question, it is imperative that we ask the very people that will be benefitting from it: the patients.

In a day and age where people are becoming more and more conscious about who has access to their data and what it is being used for, it is easy to forget that cancer patients have been openly sharing not only their data but also themselves through clinical trials for years. At a time when people fear being controlled through the use of their data, cancer patients have been the brave ones taking control of their data and using it to help improve care for future patients. This is exemplified by the set-up of Genomics England’s Access Review Committee. An independent body consisting mainly of participants of the 100,000 genomes project, that reviews who Genomics England is allowed to give access to data and samples from the project. It is a thorough and rigorous process by design and allows the patients to have full control of how their samples and data are being used.

So if you were to ask me what the most significant and exciting part of our partnership announcement was, I would say it is the fact that… are one of the first companies to have gone through this rigorous process and be trusted with access to the precious samples collected during the 100,000 genomes project.

We didn’t just pass through the process, but actually had members of the panel come to visit us in Cambridge and leave even more excited than when they came in. The cancer patients of today have sent a clear signal that if you are doing something that is truly innovative and that can really make a difference to the cancer patients of the future, then they want you to use their samples and data to help deliver that goal.

After all, we’re all in this together.

  • Written by Nirmesh Patel, CSO at
  • Edited by Belle Taylor, Strategic Communications and Partnerships Manager at
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