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England will sequence the genomes of 100,000 humans to tackle cancer and rare diseases

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Patient recruitment will begin in February

Maggie Bartlett, NHGRI / Wikimedia Commons

England's National Health Service announced today that it would build 11 new Genomic Medicine Centers as part of the country's new 100,000 Genomes Project — an effort that aims to sequence the genomes of thousands of human genomes to understand various cancer and rare diseases.

"Embracing genomics will position us at the forefront of science."

"Embracing genomics will position us at the forefront of science and make the NHS the most scientifically advanced healthcare system in the world," Bruce Koegh, NHS England's national medical director, said in a statement.

Participants of the 100,000 Genomes Project will be recruited starting in February, reports Mashable, and the project will take place over three years.

To take part, participants need to agree to have anonymous versions of their genetic code and medical histories shared with drugs companies and researchers. According to the NHS' press release, this process might lead to the early diagnosis of various conditions for some patients. But for the most part, the benefit will be to human knowledge given that many will already have a diagnosis in hand at the beginning of the project. The NHS' new centers will be located in a number of English cities, including Oxford, Birmingham, and Cambridge. The 100,000 Genomes Project, Koegh said, "positions Britain to unlock longstanding mysteries of disease on behalf of humankind."