Prime Minister David Cameron has unveiled plans to introduce DNA-mapping – in which 100,000 patients with cancer or rare diseases will have their details held on a national database – with a view to keeping everyone’s DNA on record ‘in the near future’. The move will raise great concerns among many people, and MP’s, who are against such a database on the grounds of possible abuse. However, Mr Cameron believes it is a necessary move to help the NHS deal with problems; he said:
“By unlocking the power of DNA data, the NHS will lead the global race for better tests, better drugs and above all better care. We are turning an important scientific breakthrough into a potentially life-saving reality for NHS patients across the country. If we get this right, we could transform how we diagnose and treat our most complex diseases not only here but across the world, while enabling our best scientists to discover the next wonder drug or breakthrough technology.”
Controversy is likely thanks to the sensitive nature of the information involved. The latest reports into the system state that mapping the human genome will allow for personalised treatments, and there are plans for 100,000 patients to enter the database over the next five years.
Personalised Medicine ‘For All’
The prospect of personalised medicine for everybody, thanks to the DNA mapping project, is very real, according to Sir John Bell, who as well as being a professor of Medical Sciences at Oxford is also an advisor to the government on the subject of genetics. He explained:
“The price of genome sequencing has been falling off a cliff. It has fallen by 100,000-fold in 10 years. We are headed for £100 a genome. That will happen in the very near future. Genetics is a key component of all common diseases. There is a possibility that this will help in a whole variety of ways including the use of new drugs.”
The concerns from some consumer groups are that the information held could be sold, and it could lead to private medicine firms charging people for medicine in the event they become ill. The project is, therefore, bound to meet with resistance from human rights groups. However, it is easy to see where the benefits will be, and with personalise medicine a very real prospect those suffering from complex and rare illnesses may be willing to take advantage of the situation.