Leading the world with genome sequencing

Genome sequencing technology developed at Cambridge has generated an annual turnover of over £750 million from an initial public investment in basic research of only £274,196. This means that for every £1 of public investment, the research now delivers £2,735 every year, even without counting the wider economic and social benefits.

dna sequencing

The Solexa-Illumina genome sequencing technology, which accounts for 66% of the global sequencing market, is a method for decoding DNA which originates from ‘blue-skies’ DNA research started in 1995 in the department of chemistry at the University of Cambridge. It has led to the creation of new companies including Genome England, Personalis, Foundation Medicine and Immune System Profiling and to the development of more personal genomics services.

Use of the technology has the potential to have a profound impact on human health. For example, allowing the sequencing of rare cancers to be mapped for more effective treatment.

Over 4,000 publications and studies employing Solexa-Illumina sequencing are having a direct influence on public policy. In 2012, the UK government announced a new framework to support the development of genomic and bioinformatics technologies, which have the potential to improve patient care and generate significant economic value in the UK. The contribution of Solexa sequencing was cited as one of the reasons for the new framework.

Policy areas

Related case studies

Reducing blood transfusions to lower patient risk, reduce costs and save lives

More than half a million people in the UK receive a blood transfusion each year and demand is increasing. Our ageing population, and a stringent donor selection process, mean the supply of blood is limited. 40% fewer new donors came forward last year compared with a decade ago. Recognising these challenges, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have shown the benefits of reducing the use of blood transfusions in intensive care and surgery.

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