BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON The UK government said it will create a national network of Genetic Knowledge Parks to translate advances in genetics into treatments and services for patients in the National Health Service (NHS).

Six centers will be set up in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle, Manchester and Cardiff, along with two National Genetics Reference Laboratories, in Salisbury and Manchester.

The health minister, Alan Milburn, said the centers will help prepare the NHS for the “genetics revolution,” which offers the prospect of new drugs and therapies, new means of preventing ill health and new ways of treating illness.

“In time, we should be able to assess the risk an individual has of developing disease not just for single-gene disorders like cystic fibrosis, but for our country’s biggest killers, cancer and coronary heart disease, as well as those like diabetes, which limit people’s lives.”

The two genetic reference laboratories each will receive government funding of £500,000 per annum and will specialize in assessing and developing new genetic tests and technologies. They also will train NHS staff in the use of genetics tests. The knowledge parks will be centers of clinical and scientific excellence and will work to improve the diagnosis, treatment and counseling of patients.

Each park will receive £750,000 of government funding per annum for five years, but they also are expected to attract industry investment.

The government also announced the formation of a network of cancer centers called the National Translational Cancer Research Network, to improve cancer patients’ access to clinical trials. The government said that only 10 percent of cancer patients who have failed to respond to conventional treatment are now entered in trials, and there is a huge geographical imbalance in access because of the existing concentration of trial centers in the south of the country.

The public health minister, Yvette Cooper, said the formation of the network means many more patients “in every corner of the country” will have the chance to take part in trials. “The network will harness the excellent scientific developments already under way for the benefits of NHS patients. There is a real need to speed up the processes by which laboratory research becomes new drugs and treatments.”