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Hancock backs genomics “to the hilt"

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Hancock backs genomics “to the hilt"

The Epilepsy Society has welcomed the Health Secretary's promise to invest in cutting-edge research which could lead to safer medicines and better treatments for a variety of conditions, including epilepsy.

Speaking at a conference for the UK pharmaceutical industry, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said the government would "back genomics to the hilt."

Genomics, the study and analysis of a person's DNA, is vital in gaining a better understanding of epilepsy, its causes and potential treatments.

There is the hope that genomics, which gives scientists an understanding of complex biological systems including the brain, will help to determine the cause of a person’s seizures, their response to anti-epileptic medication and their susceptibility to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy.

In his speech, Hancock praised the UK's genomics sector, saying that "we in the UK are undisputed world leaders" in the field. And, crucially, he pledged £37 million for further research and trials.

One long-term challenge facing epilepsy experts has been the need for greater funding for research, and Hancock stated that the National Institute for Health Research, which finances research projects, would continue to invest in "vital and urgent" studies.  

While investment in research is welcome, there is no guarantee that this will be spent on epilepsy-specific research – a cause which the Epilepsy Society continues to fight for.

Nicola Swanborough, Head of External Affairs said: 

"We welcome the Health Secretary's commitment to genomics and are delighted that he has recognised the UK's status as not just a world leader, but the world leader.

Mr Hancock's comments speak directly to who we are and what we want do at the Epilepsy Society.

The environment is there for organisations like the Epilepsy Society to continue to offer a pioneering service and cutting-edge research. But we must not rest on our laurels.

The Health Secretary, and the government more broadly, have made some promising commitments – they now have the chance to show they mean it."

The Health Secretary also discussed the importance of using data to speed up the development of safer medicines. Since January, the Epilepsy Society has been campaigning for safer medicines for women with epilepsy before and during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.

Through our campaign, Safe Mum, Safe Baby, we have written to a number of senior politicians, including the Prime Minister, calling for greater research funding into safer medicines. 

Mr Hancock, who was speaking at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry annual conference, also outlined his department's desire to put women's health front and centre. Criticising the "male by default strategy" which has traditionally considered men's biology as the norm, Hancock said: "We need to listen to women's voices - and to act on what we hear, so the life sciences are there for everyone."

Matt Hancock was addressing the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry annual conference on 29th April 2021. 

Please feel free to read more information on our work on genomics and our Safe Mum, Safe Baby campaign.