Queen Mary’s DNA expert is government’s new Chief Scientist of Genomics

A DNA expert from Queen Mary’s college in London’s East End has been appointed as the government’s Chief Scientist of Genomics to help save the lives of 100,000 people with rare and inherited diseases.

Prof Mark Caulfield, director at Queen Mary University of London’s biomedical research unit in Whitechapel, is heading the company launched by Downing Street today to oversee the introduction of high-tech DNA mapping.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced in December a project to map out the personal DNA code known as a genome of patients with lung and paediatric cancer and infectious diseases.

Genome is the ‘instruction manual’ in virtually every cell of the body that contains three-billion pieces of genetic information. It determines human traits such as eye colour, height, health and whether someone might be more likely to be a footballer or biologist.

Prof Caulfield said: “This programme offers the NHS the real prospect of transforming our application of genomics to help diagnose and treat rare and inherited disorders, as well as common cancers and infectious disease.”

Genomics England, a not-for-profit company launched today by the Department of Health, will fund the project to map out the genome of 100,000 patients over the next five years.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The NHS has a long track record as a leader in medical science advances and must continue to push the boundaries by unlocking the power of DNA data.

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“The UK aims to become the first country to introduce this technology in mainstream healthcare. It will lead to more personalised healthcare to save lives.”

Mapping or sequencing one’s personal genome will improve understanding of the way genetic patterns form, which scientists at Queen Mary’s believe will lead to better and earlier diagnosis of lung and paediatric cancer and infectious diseases.