Poised to lead gene research.The North-East is poised to lead the way in genetic research that could transform the lives of patients, after a Government cash boost, medical experts claimed last night.
The Northern Genetics Knowledge Park, based at Newcastle's Centre for Life, is to bid for a share of the pounds 50m announced yesterday by ministers for research into genetic therapies - which treat conditions by replacing "faulty genes."
The park's director said the money would translate research conducted there into "street-level" treatment for NHS NHS
National Health Service
NHS (in Britain) National Health Service patients.
Health Secretary Dr John Reid John Reid may refer to:
The Government plans to spend pounds 18m of the money on upgrading genetics laboratories and up to pounds 3m on supporting gene therapy research on single gene disorders.
A further pounds 2.5m will pay for gene therapy research for cystic fibrosis cystic fibrosis (sĭs`tĭk fībrō`sĭs), inherited disorder of the exocrine glands (see gland), affecting children and young people; median survival is 25 years in females and 30 years in males. and pounds 4m will be spent on gene therapy manufacturing facilities.
Centre for Life chief executive Alastair Balls said the centre would be bidding for some of the money to strengthen the research it already carries out and to make genetic testing Genetic Testing Definition
A genetic test examines the genetic information contained inside a person's cells, called DNA, to determine if that person has or will develop a certain disease or could pass a disease to his or her offspring. more comprehensive and structured throughout the country.
He said: "This is one where we need to look very carefully at what the Government is asking us to do.
"What we are looking for is ways to make the whole process of genetic testing much more efficient.
"It's in a scattering of about 30 different laboratories across the country and we would like to make it more efficient and ensure NHS patients receive a much quicker turn-around."
Northern Genetics Knowledge Park director Professor John Burn - who advised the Government on the White Paper - and Centre for Life chairman Dr Matt Ridley Dr. the Hon. Matthew (Matt) White Ridley (born February 7, 1958, Newcastle upon Tyne) is an English science writer, businessman, and aristocrat. He was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in science were among around 25 experts to yesterday join the Health Secretary and Tony Blair in Downing Street as the cash injection was announced.
Prof Burn - also clinical director of the Northern Genetics Service, a group responsible for genetic testing and diagnosis in the region, and medical director of the Institute of Human Genetics Human genetics
A discipline concerned with genetically determined resemblances and differences among human beings. Technological advances in the visualization of human chromosomes have shown that abnormalities of chromosome number or structure are surprisingly at the Centre for Life - said the money would help the entire country benefit from new genetic tests pioneered in the North-East.
He added: "As a laboratory we will be looking to build on our strengths, like muscle disease tests, and make it possible for other centres across the country to buy the tests.
"It's about putting the knowledge we have got into clinical practice. We need to get those tests out on the street. We also need to expand genetics into the whole of medicine.
"The fact that 25 of us were at Downing Street means that Government has given genetics a high priority. That's an important message to the NHS and university sector, that Government are behind genetics as a topic."
But Dr Tom Shakespeare, renowned North social scientist and director of outreach at the centre's Policy, Ethics, and Life Science Research Institute, urged caution.
He said: "It's positive that there may be more money in the North-East", but added: "One of the things about the White Paper, is that it says this will be a real revolution in human health, but some of us are sceptical about it.
"I wonder whether it will make a real difference. If you don't do anything about the information you get, it won't make any difference to your health."
Unveiling the promise of the cash boost, Dr Reid said: "Genetics offers enormous potential to improve our health and healthcare.
"Increasing understanding of genetics will bring more accurate diagnosis, more personalised prediction of risk and more targeted and effective use of existing drugs.
"It will give us new gene-based drugs and therapies, as well as prevention and treatment regimes tailored according to a person's individual genetic profile."
Newcastle's Centre for Life is a `science village', which houses a number of medical and research groups.
The centre, based in Times Square, Newcastle, includes a research institute of around 200 people, from Newcastle University Medical School, various NHS agencies across the region and the Northern Genetics Advisory Service - which is part of the NHS and helps patients referred to it by GPs and consultants.
The centre has paved the way nationally in the field of genetic research and testing.
Northern Genetics Knowledge Park, which includes various medical and research groups - including the Institute of Human Genetics, the Centre for Excellence in Life Sciences, the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Institute (PEALS) and Newcastle Fertility Centre - also comes under the umbrella of the Centre for Life.
Egg sharing plan unethical - claim
Fertility experts voiced fears last night about a pioneering scheme which offers cut-price IVF IVF in vitro fertilization.
in vitro fertilization
IVF 1 In vitro fertilization, see there 2. Intravascular fluid treatment to women if they agree to give up some of their eggs.
The `egg giving' procedure means women donate a cycle of eggs, stimulated from the ovaries with drugs, to an infertile in·fer·tile
Not capable of initiating, sustaining, or supporting reproduction.
adj unable to produce offspring. woman.
In return, the donor has IVF treatment, using a second cycle of her eggs, for pounds 950 - seven times less than the average private cost and about half of that on the NHS.
The treatment, which costs the recipient almost pounds 6,000, is being offered by fertility pioneer Professor Ian Craft at the London Fertility Centre.
But critics, including fertility expert Lord Winston, claim that it exploits women, harvesting a supply of eggs by preying on their desperation.
Lord Winston said: "I do not think it is desirable. I think it's ethically unsound unsound
said of an animal, usually a horse, which has been examined for soundness and found to be unsatisfactory. .
"It is exploiting people who are desperate."
Some women are left "devastated" when they fail to become pregnant but the recipient succeeds, he said.
"I have seen women in this situation badly damaged psychologically. They have been devastated by the experience," he added.
Fertility support groups gave the scheme a cautious welcome, saying there is a dire shortage of so-called altruistic donors in Britain.
Clare Brown of the charity Child, the national infertility support network, said: "This is one way that a couple who cannot afford to pay the full amount can get treatment."
But she added: "At the moment, because there is not the right amount of NHS resources and a shortage of donors, there is a chance that people will opt for this system where otherwise they would not."
`Egg-giving' has been authorised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
Speaking at a news conference Prof Craft said: "We have to look at new ways of getting new donors."
Advances offer hope to many - but also pitfalls
Gene therapy offers hope to people with inherited conditions such as cystic fibrosis and works by replacing "defective" genes with healthy copies.
Testing could be used to predict if someone is likely to develop a disease.
The White Paper said gene therapy could lead to new treatments for common conditions such as cancer and coronary heart disease coronary heart disease: see coronary artery disease.
coronary heart disease
or ischemic heart disease
Progressive reduction of blood supply to the heart muscle due to narrowing or blocking of a coronary artery (see atherosclerosis). . The first licensed gene therapy could be on-stream in five to 10 years.
But some experts have warned that as genetic testing becomes more widespread, it could lead to a "genetic underclass".
They fear it could be used by insurers and employers to discriminate against those likely to fall ill.
Health Secretary Dr John Reid said: "We recognise that genetic advances bring very real ethical and social concerns. We need not fear genetic advances if we debate the issues openly and put in place the proper public protections today."
The investment will fund 50 genetic counselling posts over five years, up to 90 trainee posts in laboratory genetics and 10 full-time trainers.
The Government also plans to invest pounds 18m improving NHS genetic laboratories.
This means that by 2006, testing times should be cut to three days for an urgent test, two weeks where a potential problem has been recognised and eight weeks for unknown genetic mutations.
The Government will also pilot a programme to identify and treat people with a genetic disorder called familial hypercholesterolaemia.
Dr Reid said the Human Genetics Commission The Human Genetics Commission is an independent body that advises the UK government on the ethical and social aspects of genetics. This includes genetic testing, cloning and other aspects of molecular medicine. would be asked to consider the idea of screening babies at birth and storing their genetic profiles for future use.
The Government plans to make it an offence to test a person's DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
or deoxyribonucleic acid
One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes. without their consent.