Message from the Executive Chairman - Aug 2017
The Human Variome Project and Global Variome
Following the tragic death of Dick Cotton, it was decided to restructure the organisation of the Human Variome Project to better prepare it for the rapidly evolving world of Genomic Medicine. Before stepping down as Chairman of the Board, Chris Arnold steered the process whereby the existing Australian corporate entity responsible for HVP, known as HVP International, was closed down and a UK application moved the HVP into a new organisation called Global Variome. This is a not-for-profit entity using the same structure as HVPI with an international Board comprising of myself, Garry Cutting, Mike Watson, Raj Ramesar, Johan Den Dunnen, Zilfalil Bin Alwi, Ingrid Winship and Julia Hasler. Julia brings expertise relating to the operation of UNESCO having worked there for many years. UNESCO has recognised Global Variome; with its new administrative base at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle and as the official body responsible for the HVP. With considerable support from Tim Smith who spent a few months here on sabbatical and my assistant Amy McAllister, with whom many of you will now have interacted, we have opened a bank account, engaged accountants and successfully achieved charitable status for the new organisation.
The decision to adopt the new name was, in part, influenced by the emergence of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health with which we collaborate in advancing the BRCA Challenge. The advent of high volume whole genome sequencing around the world means that the majority of variants will be future identified in a diagnostic setting using high throughput sequencing devices. GA4GH is a response to this new world and its aims significantly overlap those of HVP. After a period of consultation, the GA4GH has shifted its focus to emphasise the computational and technical aspects of genomics; including the ethical dimension and the interplay of confidentiality and data security. Rather than try to replicate what will become a well-resourced international effort, we need to see how we can complement their efforts and become a partner in the task of making genomics work for the whole world.
The emphasis of HVP on locally managed databases and the need for country nodes which interact at the international level remains highly relevant and can be the unique contribution of our organisation. Along with our close partners in HGVS, we can also contribute the important task of making it possible for all health systems to benefit from genomic knowledge using a consistent and comprehensible language. The efforts of Johan Den Dunnen to build and develop LOVD has been pivotal and we will seek to bring the curation of LOVD closer to Global Variome, while also promoting an educational programme to help clinicians and clinical scientists make best use of their data and share their knowledge. In addition to our help with the new website (www.BRCAexchange.org) we will continue to develop our interaction and promote other disease focused databases, particularly the InSiGHT database built around the genes responsible for hereditary colorectal cancer.
Our involvement across Low and Middle Income Countries (LIMCs) has prompted the development of Global Globin 2020, with a focus on better care for people with the inherited haemolytic anaemias such as sickle cell disease and thalassaemia. Exciting progress on this front, supported by Helen Robinson, will be the subject of our next post together with details of the HVP meeting alongside HUGO in Yokohama, Japan next March.