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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 14:14 GMT
Genetic research given fresh boost
DNA structure, BBC
Genetic research could lead to new treatments for disease
A network of genetic research parks is to be built to put Britain at the forefront of advances in new cell technologies, the Health Secretary has announced.

Alan Milburn said developments in genetic research would deliver "real and lasting benefits" which could transform treatments and services for NHS patients.

Six genetic knowledge parks will be set up in Oxford, Cambridge, London, Manchester and Liverpool combined, Newcastle and Cardiff.

Two new Genetic Reference Laboratories will also be built in Salisbury and Manchester under the multi-million pound scheme.


As our understanding of genetics advances, the case for private health insurance as an alternative to the NHS diminishes

Alan Milburn, Health Secretary
Mr Milburn told the Genetic and Health Conference in London the NHS must change the services it offers.

He said it should offer more gene therapy rather than invasive surgery, more genetic screening, and more drugs tailored to the personal genetic profile of the patient.

Mr Milburn said: "There is no other health care system in the world better placed to harness the potential of genetic advances than the NHS.

"Its values provide a bulwark against the inequalities and inefficiencies of insurance-based health systems where the prospects of a genetic super-class of the well and insurable, and a genetic underclass, is for many a very real threat.

'Designer' drugs

"As our understanding of genetics advances, the case for private health insurance as an alternative to the NHS diminishes.

"In time we should be able to assess the risk an individual has of developing disease, not just for single gene disorders like cystic fibrosis, but for our country's biggest killers: cancer and heart disease. The potential is immense.

"While genetics will never mean a disease-free existence, greater understanding of genetics is one of our best allies in the war against cancer."


It is extremely encouraging how the importance of genetics in medicine has been recognised by a secretary of state

Professor Martin Bobrow, genetics expert
The genetic knowledge parks, which will bring together doctors, scientists, academics and industry, will help develop "designer drugs" engineered for the patient.

Professor Martin Bobrow, a medical genetics expert at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said this was an important development.

He said: "It is extremely encouraging how the importance of genetics in medicine has been recognised by a secretary of state.

"I'm very hopeful that some improved facilities for the medical applications of genetics will become available quite soon as a result of this interest."

The genetic knowledge parks will be jointly funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in a 15m investment programme.

The DTI Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Sainsbury, said: "The UK has an outstanding record of scientific research.

"The setting up of genetic knowledge parks will mean that patients get real benefits in the form of new treatments and drugs."

See also:

11 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Genome 'treasure trove'
27 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Genetic revolution work begins
26 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Scientists crack human code
30 May 00 | Sci Tech
Genome: Rights and wrongs
30 May 00 | Human genome
What the genome can do for you
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