IN NOVEMBER 2019, Matt Hancock, then the United Kingdom’s health secretary, unveiled a lofty ambition: to sequence the genome of every baby in the country. It would usher in a “genomic revolution,” he said, with the future being “predictive, preventative, personalized health care.”
Hancock’s dreams are finally coming to pass. In October, the government announced that Genomics England, a government-owned company, would receive funding to run a research pilot in the UK that aims to sequence the genomes of between 100,000 and 200,000 babies. Dubbed the Newborn Genomes Programme, the plan will be embedded within the UK’s National Health Service and will specifically look for “actionable” genetic conditions—meaning those for which there are existing treatments or interventions—and which manifest in early life, such as pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy and congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
It will be at least 18 months before recruitment for participants starts, says Simon Wilde, engagement director at Genomics England. The program won’t reach Hancock’s goal of including “every” baby; during the pilot phase, parents will be recruited to join. The results will be fed back to the parents “as... see more