The iHope™ Genetic Health program will expand access to whole-genome sequencing to low- and middle-income communities around the world, with more than one-third of funds being allocated to patients in Africa
SAN DIEGO, Nov. 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ: ILMN) and Genetic Alliance today announced the creation of the iHope™ Genetic Health program aimed at providing whole-genome sequencing access (WGS) to tens of thousands of patients across the globe impacted by genetic disease. At least half of iHope Genetic Health’s efforts will be focused on areas of the world in need outside the US, with more than one-third of Illumina’s support being dedicated to patients in Africa.
“By establishing iHope™ Genetic Health, we are expanding our commitment to ensure that the benefits derived from whole-genome sequencing are available to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, regardless of disease, geography or income,” said Francis deSouza, Chief Executive Officer at Illumina. “By unlocking the power of the human genome, we can find answers for these patients where no others can, and dramatically change lives.”
Through this flagship program, Illumina will enable Genetic Alliance, a global nonprofit focused on advancing genetics to benefit human health, to create networks of clinics, and laboratories equipped with the necessary genome technology to provide precision genomic diagnoses to patients suffering from rare genetic disease. As part of this program, Genetic Alliance will also partner with pharmaceutical, technology companies and care providers to support patient access to data, therapeutic interventions, and ongoing supportive care.
“Since our inception in 1986, Genetic Alliance’s mission has been to realize a world in which those affected by genetic disease are diagnosed and offered interventions to alleviate their suffering,” said Genetic Alliance CEO, Sharon Terry. “As the mother of two children, diagnosed with a genetic condition, I can’t rest until we build equitable systems to meet the needs of all who experience the diagnostic odyssey. In iHope Genetic Health we recognize the place of individuals, families, and communities to prioritize and solve the problems they face, consistent with their own values and culture.”
iHopeTM Genetic Health will build upon the success of Illumina’s existing iHope efforts, further extending the reach of the program and enabling clinical laboratories and care centers throughout the world to test patients impacted by rare disease and other genetic health conditions. Genetic disease affects over 300 million individuals worldwide, the vast majority of whom are children. In high income countries these patients often remain undiagnosed for up to seven years, while in low- and middle-income geographies, many families never know the cause of their child’s suffering. Further enabling access will help reduce the psychological stress and loss of income that many families endure.
“The success of the Human Genome Project has revolutionized medicine by enabling treatments that precisely target disease-causing changes in DNA,” said National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “While the cost of genome sequencing has dropped precipitously over the past decade, it remains cost-prohibitive for many. I applaud Genetic Alliance for launching this important initiative to improve access to this life-changing technology. Access to medicine should always be a right, not a privilege.”
To ensure support for patients throughout their diagnostic and care journey iHope Genetic Health will be supported by a network of disease advocacy, technology, pharmaceutical and clinical support organizations.
“We have a moral imperative to help genetic disease patients who need a diagnosis,” said Ryan Taft, PhD, Illumina’s iHope lead and Vice President, Scientific Research. “iHope Genetic Health will change the trajectory of genomic medicine worldwide, helping patients who may have otherwise been invisible. Our vision is a genome for every patient that needs one, and a network of partners who will help them on every part of their journey to better health.”
iHope Genetic Health will begin reviewing applications for clinical whole genome sequencing programs in February 2022. For more information please visit ihopegenetichealth.org.