Software innovators being invited to bid for share of £10 million fund

Businesses are being offered a share of £10 million to develop cutting edge technology to analyse and better interpret significant variations in the DNA of NHS patients with serious illnesses.

The Department of Health and Genomics England are inviting innovators to develop high-tech software products that will support its goal to sequence and better understand genomes for NHS patients with cancer and rare inherited diseases.

Developments in computer software could improve the reports to NHS doctors and the feedback they give to patients of what whole genome sequencing has found, and so support better diagnosis and treatment.

The funds have been provided by the Department of Health through the Small Business Research Initiative, a cross-government initiative coordinated by the Technology Strategy Board.

Prof Tim Hubbard, head of bioinformatics at Genomics England, said: “A whole human genome is more than three billion pairs of letters, from which it is possible to extract valuable information about the differences that an individual may have in their DNA.

“These differences are summarised in a Variant Call Format (VCF) report and it is this report that is the starting point for algorithms to interpret how someone’s DNA may be influencing their health or the probability of developing disease in the future.

“Genomics England is seeking innovators in computer software who can develop programmes and products that will improve the speed, accuracy and quality of both the generation and interpretation of these VCF reports.

“We expect some researchers and innovators will focus on DNA variants in cancer, while others will develop software that focuses on inherited rare diseases. Some are likely to develop computer packages that support improved interpretation of the data, while others will focus on improving the quality of the reports sent to NHS doctors to support feedback to patients.”

Prof Hubbard added: “Whatever aspect of this work innovators focus on, the aim is that the end result will support Genomics England to provide timely and high quality reports of the variations found in the DNA of patients that can be used to provide better treatment and a better overall outcome for patients.”

Genomics England plans to sequence 100,000 whole genomes, related to NHS patients with cancer and rare inherited disease, by 2017, linking these findings with a summary of the patient’s medical record. This resource will be made available in a secure location within the NHS firewall to research clinicians, innovators and industry, to support developments in new diagnostic tests, therapies and drugs.

Those interested in taking part need to register their initial interest by 12 noon on 26 January and can do so by clicking here.

Applications need to be submitted by 12 noon on 5 February. Genomics England plans to announce the successful applicants by the end of March.

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