Peter has spent most of his career in academia, initially in mathematics and more recently in the world of genetics. He was latterly Director of the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, and is an Emeritus Professor of Statistical Science and a Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford. As an academic, his work focussed on understanding patterns of variation in human populations and the genetic basis of common human diseases. Peter founded Genomics plc in 2014 and joined the company as CEO in 2017.
Tell us a bit about Genomics plc and how it came about?
Genomics is the study of a person’s entire gene set or DNA (the genome), including the interactions of those genes with each other and with that person’s environment.
Why is understanding genomics important for the future of health?
Secondly, genetics is a key part of the differences between individuals in their risk of disease, along with environmental and lifestyle factors. The powerful algorithms that we have developed summarise the genetic contribution to risk of disease for individuals, giving us an opportunity to predict risk by combining genetics with other risk factors. Today’s healthcare systems are creaking as costs continue to escalate. Nowadays, healthcare is mostly ‘sick’ care, whereby we wait until people are sick before taking action. It has become clear that to make healthcare sustainable, there needs to be more of a focus on preventing disease. What we’re doing to identify and target those at risk, using so-called genomic prevention, is a key part of this preventative healthcare strategy.
What sort of timescales are we talking about?
How do you work with the NHS?
What are the main differences of working in both bio and in-silico?
What we’re doing in healthcare represents a paradigm shift”
What is driving the growth of your business?
The opportunities to scale what we’re doing are fantastic.”
How do you go about attracting the talent you need to drive this growth?
We have a mission that people can be excited about; to transform healthcare and drug discovery.”
What impact has COVID-19 had on your sector/company?
At another level, our work in healthcare has understandably felt the impact of COVID. It is no surprise that most healthcare systems are preoccupied with managing the pandemic, so some of our work on pilots and early implementation is slower than we’d hoped for. In the longer term, however, I believe there will be several positive impacts. For example, COVID has changed the way individuals feel about interacting with health systems. It has changed the way those systems think about delivering care as they look at new approaches to preventative healthcare. For example, in the UK we are seeing an acceleration in the way some data sets are being made available to researchers, and a growing emphasis on the potential of digital health. And finally, it has changed people’s (and perhaps government’s) perception of healthcare and its importance to society.
Looking ahead, as we continue to focus on long-term health issues, we will all ask what we can do differently if this happens again. It will be a changed world due to the speed at how we can respond using data and analytics. This is a positive driver for our work at Genomics.
What are the other key challenges are you facing?
We’re not only a player in a new industry; we’re shaping it.”
What do you see as the future of health tech and your company in particular?
I genuinely believe that the approach we have, powered by genomics, can transform prevention in healthcare.”
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