The PHG Foundation
The PHG Foundation is a multidisciplinary policy unit with a strong grounding in public health, based at the University’s Department of Public Heath and Primary Care. The PHG Foundation’s mission is to help policy and decision-makers deliver the benefits of genomics and life sciences for every citizen. In the rapidly evolving world of healthcare, our strategic priority is to support the development and delivery of effective, sustainable and more personalised healthcare. We aim to do this by grasping the potential of new technologies; thinking differently about healthcare; and shaping the policy debate. The Foundation is directed by Dr Hilary Burton.
Using genomics to improve infectious disease control
Infectious diseases are an ever-present health burden, thought to cost £30 billion each year in England alone. Genome sequencing can potentially improve detection and management by allowing faster and more precise characterisation of pathogens (viruses and bacteria) that cause disease than traditional methods, and is already being used to investigate outbreaks and healthcare associated infections. A major programme of research under the auspices of the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) has allowed us to examine this potential. Our strategic review of the microbiological and public health applications of genomics, Pathogen Genomics Into Practice, identifies the steps needed for effective and equitable national use. It includes a policy roadmap for Public Health England, NHS England and the Department of Health, outlining actions needed for service implementation and delivery of pathogen genomics in the short term, and subsequent innovation and expansion.
Supporting informed policy development and clinical translation
With a new focus on public affairs, we have set up and provide the secretariat for a new All Party Parliamentary Group on the application of innovative bioscience and technology in healthcare, which is chaired by Lord Norman Warner and Jo Churchill MP. We continue to provide guidance on new technologies for policy-makers, examining their potential impact on health services, including financial implications. Our expanding health economics function is also contributing to various BRC projects with the evaluation of clinical genome sequencing in different health service contexts. Understanding all the barriers and drivers for effective translation from research into practice is crucial to deliver patient benefit from scientific innovations. Our BRC work on infectious diseases is further supported by ethnographic research examining case studies on clinical genome sequencing (to investigate outbreaks of MRSA, Legionnaires’ disease and tuberculosis), with a view to developing a novel methodology of translation. We are also examining the engagement of children in research, and of women in the Pregnancy Outcome Prediction Study.
Optimising healthcare genomics
Making the most of genomics is an ongoing theme. Our report Realising Genomics in Clinical Practice highlighted important ethical, legal, social and practical issues and made policy recommendations to maximise benefits and minimise potential harms for patients. We have been developing standards for effective data sharing in partnership with the Association for Clinical Genetic Science. The complementary Clinical Genome Analysis project has seen us work closely with experts to explain this complex clinical tool for wider audiences, including
challenges to successfully embedding within health services.
Our pioneering Mainstreaming Genomics work, aimed at growing excellence within different medical specialties, has gained further impetus with the formation of a collaborative working group with the Royal College of Physicians and the Health Education England genomics programme and release of a collection of new resources for different medical specialities. Focusing on the 100,000 Genomes Project itself, we are leading the Clinical Evaluation and Implementation sub-domain of the Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnership (GECIP) domain. For this, we shall be working with research leaders to learn crucial lessons about the effective implementation of genomics within clinical services, including our development and analysis of novel health economics approaches to assessing their costs and benefits.