Revolutionary Illumina gene sequencing technology arrives in Exeter

  • August 30th 2023

A transformational system for Whole Genome Sequencing has arrived at the NHS Exeter Genomics Laboratory, marking a momentous moment for research collaboration in the region.

The Illumina NovaSeq X Plus, a cutting-edge genetic sequencer, will be based in the Exeter Genomics Laboratory, a partnership between the University of Exeter, the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, the Exeter NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), and the NHS South West Genomic Laboratory Hub.

Single test for genetic information

The new sequencer can look at almost all of an individual’s genetic information in a single test within 24 hours. The sequencer, provided by leading developer and manufacturer Illumina, made a grand entrance on Tuesday 22 August.

Once installed within the NHS Exeter Genomics Laboratory, the new technology will form an integral part of the dedicated joint NHS and university research facility.

Emma Baple, Professor of Genomic Medicine at the University of Exeter and Medical Director of the NHS South West Genomic Laboratory Hub, said: “This is a momentous moment for translational research in Exeter. We are excited to see the new discoveries and diagnostic innovations that will come from this pioneering new sequencer, which will enable us to provide more diagnoses for families affected by rare genetic conditions and ultimately improve outcomes for NHS patients.”

First of its kind

The new sequencer is the first of its kind in an NHS Trust and will also increase capacity and reduce costs revolutionising the way we conduct research and diagnostics.

The purchase of the Illumina NovaSeq X Plus was made possible thanks to significant investment of £2.179m from the NIHR, part of which has funded the acquisition of the sequencer. This funding is part of a more than £96m award announced for cutting-edge research equipment to NHS organisations, including Biomedical Research Centres, Clinical Research Facilities and the Clinical Research Network.

Funding to boost research and innovation across the NHS

The funding will boost research and innovation across the NHS. New equipment and technology will help find new ways to prevent and treat diseases. The funding will be used for a range of innovative equipment, including imaging devices, mobile research vehicles, ultrasound equipment, and specialist fridges and freezers that are essential for storing samples used in research.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

“From Devon to Liverpool, we’re giving NHS organisations over £96 million to bolster vital health and care research.

“Scientists and medical experts will be able to purchase cutting-edge equipment, like mobile CT scanners, imaging devices and ultrasound equipment to help their ground breaking work in the prevention, treatment and management of disease.

“The NHS and its staff have now served us for nearly 75 years and as we celebrate that achievement we want to make sure the health service is leading the way. This investment will also help the NHS continue to cut waiting lists – one of the government’s top five priorities.”

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