Our Future Health supports Genome UK Implementation Plan for England

News – 13 December 2022

Our Future Health is playing an important role in delivering the UK’s genomics strategy, including as part of the 2022 to 2025 Implementation Plan for England that has been published today.   

In 2020, the government published the Genome UK strategy, setting out a vision to extend the UK’s leadership in genomic healthcare and research. The Implementation Plan for England builds on the shared commitments for UK-wide implementation 2022 to 2025 announced earlier this year and describes the actions that will be taken in England over the next 3 years. 

Our Future Health will make an important contribution to commitments across all pillars of the strategy including prevention and early detection, research and data, and engagement with the public. 

We are committed to working closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as their plans develop to support the implementation of the Genome UK strategy across the UK, and to make Our Future Health clinic appointments widely available in the coming months for volunteers who join our programme.    

Genotyping and diversity in Our Future Health

Our Future Health is aiming to recruit up to 5 million volunteers across the UK into a cohort that reflects the UK population by age, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Volunteers will provide information about their health and lifestyle and provide a blood sample, from which DNA will be extracted.   

This DNA will be genotyped using a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array produced for us by Illumina and the genotyping service provided by EuroFins laboratories. The genetic data will be combined with questionnaire and health-related linked data to create a research platform that enables discovery and translational research. By ensuring that a diverse range of people participate in Our Future Health, we can make discoveries that benefit everyone, delivering on an important Genome UK commitment.  

The array has been optimised for the UK population and is designed to predict blood types and assess pharmacogenetic variants (variations in drug response due to genetic makeup). This will allow researchers to better understand drug efficacy and side effects.   

Using Polygenic Risk Scores

A polygenic risk score (PRS) is an estimate of an individual’s genetic risk of a trait or disease, calculated by analysing their genetic information. Genomics plc will work with Our Future Health to calculate PRS for all volunteers using genotyping data generated from their blood samples. We also plan to offer personal feedback to people taking part in Our Future Health if they wish to receive it and give their consent.   

Polygenic risk scores may enable personalised approaches to prevention, and to healthcare in general. When integrated with family history, environmental and lifestyle risk factors for diseases, PRS-powered tests and tools can identify people at elevated risk of disease and match them to the right prevention, screening, or treatment pathways, with the aim of preventing disease altogether or catching it early when outcomes are better. 

Our Future Health and Genomics plc will work together to develop effective methods for delivering feedback to volunteers, along with health and care representatives from across the UK, including the NHS. The approaches we take will also be co-designed with the public and our volunteers.   

Offering volunteers personal feedback could potentially allow them to take action that reduces their risk of disease. It will also generate evidence that helps us understand the impact of giving people personalised health and risk information, e.g. whether it has an impact on lifestyle change.   

Polygenic risk scores may also be used to identify volunteers who have a high risk of developing a certain disease, allowing them to be invited to take part in further research studies focused on earlier detection. 

This programme of work will contribute to the commitment in Genome UK on formulating a clear, evidence-based position on whether and how polygenic risk scores (PRS) can be best utilised at scale in the NHS. 

Dr Andrew Roddam, CEO and Joint Chief Investigator, Our Future Health: “The effective application of genomics in healthcare is central to the vision set out by the government in Genome UK. Our Future Health is delighted to be playing a key role in the Genome UK Implementation Plan for England, by enabling researchers to better understand disease risk across the country and the utility of polygenic risk scores in health care. This will play an important role in our aim to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat common diseases.”