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Baroness Blackwood appointed chair of Genomics England

4 May 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1045

Baroness Nicola Blackwood has been appointed chair of Genomics England.

Genomics England was initially established in 2013 to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project, launched in 2012, in partnership with the NHS, with the aim of applying whole genome sequencing technology to health care and to cement the UK's world-leading position in genomic science.

In December 2018 Genomics England reached its target of sequencing 100,000 whole human genomes (See BioNews 979).

'I'm thrilled to accept the honour of becoming Genomics England's chair,' said Baroness Blackwood. 'This is a tremendously important time to be able to contribute to Life Sciences in this country. I truly believe that genomics will continue to transform healthcare, allowing us to build a sustainable healthcare system, delivering personalised and predictive care to everybody. I'm absolutely committed to supporting Genomics England as best I can, through the fight against COVID-19 and beyond.'

Baroness Blackwood has succeeded Baroness Dido Harding, who has served as interim chair since November 2019. Baroness Blackwood will support Genomics England through its next phase of development, which involves moving from a project-based organisation to a sustainable government-owned company. Their mission is to advance genomic research, and speed the transition to genomic healthcare.

Previously, Baroness Blackwood was a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care from January 2019 to February 2020 and previously served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health from July 2016 until June 2017. She has spoken publicly about her own experiences as a rare disease patient with the genetic condition Ehlers Danlos syndrome.

Health minister Matt Hancock said: 'It's a great pleasure to welcome Baroness Blackwood as the new chair of Genomics England. Nicola brings huge experience to the role, including from her time as Life Sciences Minister, and I'm certain she will drive forward the crucial work already underway to better our understanding of the human code and the health benefits that can bring.'

Chris Wigley, chief executive officer of Genomics England, said: 'I'm delighted to welcome Nicola to Genomics England. Her wealth of experience in the public and private sectors - particularly her past role of Life Sciences Minister - will be invaluable to the board, our many partners, participants, and all of our staff, as we strive to facilitate genomic research and to make genomic healthcare universally accessible. I am confident that, with Nicola's support and guidance, Genomics England will play an ever-more significant role in the UK's genomic healthcare ambition.'

Baroness Blackwood appointed Chair of Genomics England
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