Wessex genomics workshop highlights opportunities for region


Health and care system leaders gathered at a workshop in November to explore the challenges and opportunities presented by delivery of the UK’s 2020 genomic strategy.

The workshop, jointly hosted by Wessex Health Partners (WHP), Health Innovation Wessex (HIW) and the NHS Central and South Genomic Medicine Service Alliance, brought together more than 80 people from the NHS, universities, and the local research and innovation ecosystem to review the government’s 10-year ambition to make the UK the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world.

The focus of the day was to reflect on the delivery of the strategy three years on, and discuss its impact on many areas of health and care, including screening, risk and prevention; diagnosis, targeted therapies and treatment; patient and public engagement; workforce; and industry partnerships.

Attendees joined 10 sessions throughout the day, with presentations and talks covering different topics, from pharmacogenomics within stroke services to screening for newborns. 

The workshop began with a keynote from Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for NHS England, outlining the current landscape, and ended with a panel discussion focused on the future of genomics and next steps for Wessex.  

Professor William Rosenberg, Chair of WHP, said: 

“It was an unbelievably impressive day. We heard talks about the national plan for genomics. We heard about local implementation of screening, diagnostic testing, and a wonderful talk about the therapeutic use of genomics in mRNA vaccines.

“One of the key messages for me is the incredible range of talent that we have in Wessex. We are not just nationally in the forefront, but globally competitive in the use of genomics at every level. 

“On top of this, there was incredible goodwill in the room and commitment to work together across our geography to bring the power of the whole of Wessex to bear on adopting and adapting the new genomics to benefit the healthcare of our population. This makes it a great Wessex story – a Wessex story of success and a Wessex story of future opportunities.” 

Nicola Bent, Deputy CEO and Director of Innovation at HIW, added: 

“We’re delighted to have collaborated with WHP and the NHS Central and South Genomic Medicine Service Alliance to host this important workshop. We had lots of great conversations with our partners, including patient representatives, and some fascinating presentations from a broad range of speakers.
“The opportunities for our region brought about by the UK’s genomics strategy are big – a Wessex excelling in education, genomics research, and health and care delivery would benefit local patients, local populations, our workforce, our universities, our industry partnerships, and the taxpayer. With sustained system-level commitment, we know these benefits can be realised.” 

On next steps for the region, Bill Gillespie, Chief Executive of HIW, said: 

“My takeaway from the genomics workshop is that people were immensely proud of the achievements in research and the translation of some of that groundbreaking research into actual changes in clinical practice and benefits for patients.

“They were incredibly passionate about the achievements over the past three years or so and moving forward, I think there's an opportunity for the system, and we had the system in the room, to understand how we take this really exciting agenda and move it forward.

“So the next few weeks will be about conversations with people in various parts of the system to get a sense of what they've taken away, and then to bring those conversations back into the beginnings of a plan to ensure that we are doing our utmost to progress the advances in genomics in Wessex for the benefit of the people that we serve.”

In this short video, hear more learnings and reflections from workshop attendees:

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