Health Secretary participates in Diverse Data Initiative aimed at reducing health inequalities

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has today provided a blood sample so that his genome can be sequenced, as part of Genomics England’s Diverse Data Initiative.

The Secretary of State chose to participate during a visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital and the sample will now be mapped by a sequencing lab at the Sanger Centre near Cambridge. His genome data will be de-identified and stored in the National Genomic Research Library, alongside participants of the 100,000 Genomes Project and the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study.

To date, studies of human genetics have often been based on volunteers of European ancestry, which has created a risk that the benefits of the genomic healthcare revolution are not relevant to all communities. For this reason, Genomics England have launched the ‘Diverse Data’ initiative which will work in collaboration with researchers and the NHS, with the ultimate aim to tackle this healthcare inequality and ensure the benefits of genomic healthcare can be applied to anyone, regardless of their ancestral, socioeconomic or geographic background.

By taking part in the initiative the Health Secretary is now part of a community of research participants whose de-identified data is securely stored by Genomics England alongside over 140,000 human genomes. This data is analysed by researchers with the aim of developing new therapies and treatments for cancer and rare disease patients.

Genomics England is also helping to reduce health inequalities through analysing data from an increasingly diverse population, in partnership with communities across the UK to rapidly improve the representation of under-represented groups in genetic datasets and research.

Secretary of State Sajid Javid said:

I am extremely proud to be taking part in this study which is helping make sure that everyone, no matter their background, can benefit from our world-leading genomic research programmes.

Genomics England’s vital initiative will sequence the genomes of those who are under-represented in research data so that we can develop better treatments and transform healthcare for all.

Genomics England CEO Chris Wigley said:

Genomics has the potential to transform healthcare. The technology can provide new and faster diagnoses and enable the development of life-changing treatments for those with rare diseases, cancer and other conditions. However it has to work for all of us, and those who have non-European ancestry have been under-represented in research data and therefore risk not getting equal benefit as this comes into the mainstream of patient care. Through our Diverse Data Initiative we are making important progress in addressing that problem.

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