Genomics England is linking with leading life sciences companies Inivata and Thermo Fisher Scientific in a collaboration that strives to improve understanding of cancer.

The pilot project will assess the quality of blood plasma samples and explore the potential of liquid biopsy testing in order to boost disease management and patient outcomes.

The industry partnership marks the first stage a larger three-phase pilot aiming to: determine the suitability of plasma samples for whole genome sequencing; assess the technologies available; and provide a proof of concept study using longitudinal samples.

In the first phase, Inivata and Thermo Fisher Scientific will analyse around 500 plasma samples donated by participants in Genomics England’s 100,000 Genomes Project not only to evaluate the suitability of plasma but also to investigate the potential of using liquid biopsy technologies to discover the mutations in the human genome that can lead to or identify the presence of cancer.

Genomics England will share results with researchers in the UK and around the world, with the potential to develop less invasive sample collection techniques, more effective monitoring processes and, ultimately, better cancer care, it said.

“Genomics England aims to translate the UK’s pioneering genomic research into routine care as quickly as possible − cutting the time it takes to turn a groundbreaking discovery into the diagnostics, treatments and medicines that patients need,” noted Joanne Hackett, the group’s chief commercial officer.

“Our partnership with Inivata and Thermo Fisher Scientific harnesses the expertise of two of the world’s leading genomics companies and will help us to achieve this hugely important goal.”

The 100,000 Genomes project is the largest national sequencing project of its kind in the world. 100,000 genomes from around 70,000 people - NHS patients with a rare disease, plus their families, or patients with cancer - will be sequenced, with the aim of creating a new genomic medicine service for the NHS.