Q&A with Peter Donnelly, Director, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (Oxford) – Speaker at PMWC 2018 Silicon Valley

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[et_pb_accordion_item title=”Q: What are some of the large programs currently under way at the University of Oxford to help develop the space of precision medicine? What are some specifics and how will they help overcome precision medicine challenges?”]

A: The University of Oxford houses one of the largest (and internationally most highly rated) biomedical research campuses in Europe. Many of the research programmes, from basic science to clinical translation, offer potential for improvements in precision medicine. Some specific examples include large programmes in human genetics, cardiovascular medicine, cancer, medical imaging, tropical medicine and infectious disease, biomedical big data, and neurodegenerative disease.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”Q: Oxford just opened the largest big data institute, the BDI. What are some of the institute’s goals and how will they be tackled? What can we expect to learn over the next 1-5 years?”]

A: The potential for insights from big data in biomedical research is huge, and the challenges are substantial. Oxford University’s new Big Data Institute is an interdisciplinary research centre which focuses on the analysis of large, complex, heterogeneous data sets for research into the causes and consequences, prevention, and treatment of disease. BDI researchers develop, evaluate, and deploy efficient methods for acquiring and analysing information for large clinical research studies. These approaches are invaluable in identifying the associations between lifestyle exposures, genetic variants, infections and health outcomes around the globe.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”Q: Large-scale programs, like the 100,000 Genomes Projects, have been put in place to further advance precision medicine. With these programs, what are some of the key components that will change and drive the success of precision medicine? What are some challenges we still need to overcome?”]

A: The 100,000 Genomes Project in the UK is a forerunner for more extensive collection and use of genomic information in clinical medicine. It has been a pioneer in addressing some of the logistical, ethical, and bioinformatics challenges in undertaking genome sequencing at scale in clinical medicine.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”Q: Volumes of data is getting generated with the Human Genome Project. What kind of challenges is human genetic data giving to science and how can we overcome these challenges?”]

A: The cost of sequencing human genomes has dropped dramatically, to the extent that whole genome and whole exome sequencing is increasingly undertaken in research studies and some areas within clinical medicine. A major challenge, and a focus of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) is to facilitate responsible sharing of as much of this data as is possible.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”Q: How will genomics transform healthcare and how will it impact medicine? Beyond genetics and genomics what other data is relevant and why?”]

A: There will be an explosion in the extent of genomic data, with as many as 1 billion people sequenced within 10-15 years. In many cases the genetic data will be linked to information about the individuals, through electronic medical records, or data from wearables, or both. This presents an enormous opportunity to better understand fundamental human biology, in health and in disease. We will learn the typical response of an individual to a therapeutic or a treatment, and also better understand the variability in this response between individuals. Both will have a huge role to play in informing drug development, from target identification, through understanding mechanism and choosing biomarkers, to the design of clinical trials. It will also inform clinical choices of treatment for the individual.


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