Leeds and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals partner in new genomics laboratory hub

Genetic testing for people in Yorkshire and the North East is set to be transformed following the announcement of a new genomics laboratory hub for the region. 

Genomics Laboratory
© Genomics England – photo Phil Mynott

A major new partnership will see Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Sheffield Children’s Hospital join forces with Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to pioneer new genomic testing. This is one of seven newly commissioned genomic laboratory hubs across the country, announced by NHS England.

The partnership will be one of the largest providers of genomic testing in the UK, focusing on delivering a range of specialised services in Sheffield, inherited cancers, specialist genetic testing and next generation sequencing in Leeds and genome sequencing for mitochondrial conditions in Newcastle.

Dr Yvette Oade, Chief Medical Officer for Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said:

“It is really exciting that Leeds is one of the key partners of the new genomics laboratory hub for Yorkshire and the North East. This partnership will allow us to work more closely with colleagues in Sheffield and Newcastle to improve services for patients in our region but also lead the way for future developments in genomics.”

Dr David Throssell, Medical Director, Sheffield Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:

Genomic medicine is increasingly bringing the benefits of personalised medicine to our patients and so it is important that collectively we continue to pioneer this area of medicine. The partnership between Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Leeds Hospitals, Sheffield Children’s Hospital and Newcastle Hospitals in the form of the new Genomic laboratory is another important step forward for our local population in terms of access to specialist genetic testing and interpretation.”

Professor Sir John Burn, Chairman for the Newcastle Hospitals and a consultant specialising in cancer genetics said:

“I am delighted that Newcastle Hospitals will hold the contract for the Genomics Laboratory Hub across Yorkshire & Humber, North East and Cumbria: one of seven hubs of the new NHS England Genomics Laboratory Service. Our collective population is equivalent to that of Scotland and Wales combined.

“The partnership across Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle forms the foundation for a closer working relationship between our three cities across the NHS and academia, and is an exciting venture for us all.”

The Yorkshire and North East model ensures delivery of services across all three sites with the high throughput laboratory hosted in Leeds, as well as expert interpretation and specialised testing spread across the three hospital centres: Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle.

The national hub and network model will not only improve patient access for genetic testing, but will also support the development of more personalised healthcare, as well as consolidating tests across the three sites making more efficient use of resources whilst not affecting the diagnostic pathway.

The ultimate ambition is for patients of all ages with rare inherited diseases and cancer to be diagnosed and treated quicker than ever before, wherever they live.

Genetic testing can be used to find out whether or not a person has inherited a specific altered gene (genetic mutation) that causes a particular medical condition. Testing usually involves having a blood or tissue sample taken. The sample will consist of cells containing a person’s DNA.

The new service will allow clinicians to access testing for over 500 conditions seven days a week, with some results being available in as little as three days. It will also enable the identification of gene mutations in cancer cells which can be targeted by new drug therapies.

The new laboratory hub will be delivered across the partner trusts involved to ensure rapid access to existing diagnostic services, as well as developing new tests, and attracting the brightest and best clinical academic talent to the region.

The new laboratory hubs form part of a range of measures to revolutionise patient care through the NHS’s continued use of genomic medicine, including the sequencing of one million whole genomes.

This builds on the 100,000 Genomes Project, which was launched in 2012 to achieve the target of sequencing 100,000 whole human genomes.