Potential of genetics to transform medicine risks being wasted, say experts

The genetics community needs to work far more collaboratively if it is to meet the challenges of the genomic era, warns Professor Sir John Burn, one of the UK’s leading genetics experts.

Professor Burn, who is chair of the British Society for Human Genetics and professor of clinical genetics at Newcastle University’s Institute of Genetic Medicine, says: ‘Now is the time for the community of geneticists to get their act together. That’s true at several levels: first of all within the community, secondly on a national level, and thirdly internationally’.

It took 13 years and around $3billion to sequence a human genome for the first time, less than a decade ago. Since then, both the cost of and the time for genome sequencing have decreased with exceptional speed. At the same time, publication of scientific data in the field of genetics has boomed.

‘The problem of sequencing technology is rapidly vanishing’, says Professor Burn. ‘We need to organise ourselves for the next challenges. The first of these is the sheer volume of genomic and genetic data, which is a soluble problem. The second, which is perhaps more difficult, is the translation of that data into meaningful clinical messages’.

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