The UK’s Industrial Strategy program just announced a £250 million program for early detection of disease. A public:private partnership with £79 million for the UK Govt plus £160 million from businesses and charities will be used to fund the Accelerating Detection of Disease programme. This will support research, early diagnosis, prevention and treatment for diseases including cancer, dementia and heart disease and will recruit up to 5 million healthy volunteers.

The programme is led by Professor Sir John Bell and brings together the NHS, industry and leading charities including Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The use of genomics will change the future of health and medicine in a new era of precision healthcare. Putting genomics at the heart of this globally-leading initiative, delivers the government’s commitment to develop a genomic volunteers programme and contributes to our UK-wide ambition to sequence five million genomes by 2023 to 2024, maintaining our global lead in this field.

A biobank of 5 million people looking for signals of disease is going to require some real foresight to predict what we should be collecting today. Many biobanks collected blood, but very few collected plasma in a manner that allowed cfDNA analysis. Nearly everyone does that today of course, for Cancer; but not necessarily for chronic disease. There is arguably a bigger health impact by using genomics of cfDNA in chronic disease than in cancer. And I look forward to seeing how this project delivers.