Soon, people can have their personal DNA code sequenced for 100 pounds
Personalised medicine and individualised treatments could be a possibility in the "very near future" as everybody will soon be able to have their entire DNA make-up mapped for as little as 100 pounds, a leading professor has revealed.
Sir John Bell, professor of medical sciences at Oxford University, adviser on genetics to the government and chair of its human genomics strategy group, made his comments as David Cameron launched a national DNA database of up to 100,000 patients with cancer or rare diseases.
"The price of genome sequencing has been falling off a clliff. It has fallen by 100,000-fold in 10 years. We are headed for 100-pound a genome. That will happen in the very near future," the Telegraph quoted Sir John as saying.
He told Radio 4's Today programme that that means everybody's genetic make up would therefore be available if they wish it to be.
"Genetics is a key component of all common diseases. There is a possibility that this will help in a whole variety of ways including the use of new drugs," he said.
The UK will be the first country to introduce hi-tech DNA mapping within a mainstream health system in a move designed to help it lead the world in tackling cancer and rare diseases, Downing Street said.
"By unlocking the power of DNA data, the NHS will lead the global race for better tests, better drugs and above all better care," Cameron said.
"We are turning an important scientific breakthrough into a potentially life-saving reality for NHS patients across the country.
"If we get this right, we could transform how we diagnose and treat our most complex diseases not only here but across the world, while enabling our best scientists to discover the next wonder drug or breakthrough technology," he added.
But campaigners warned the project, in which patients will have to opt out of having their personal DNA code sequenced if they do not wish to be involved, comes with "very real privacy concerns".
If extended to the whole population, individuals and their relatives could be identified and tracked by matching their DNA to their genome stored in health care records in a move which could "wipe out privacy", GeneWatch UK said.
Campaigners Big Brother Watch added the opt-out system for research was "wholly wrong", warning that marketing firms could try to use the data to sell medication to people at risk of becoming ill.