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Turning The U.K.'s Health Data Into Gold

A plan to funnel cash into the National Health Service by selling access to patient data

John Lauerman

Paul Drayson, born blind in one eye, has never forgotten the treatment he received as a child from England’s National Health Service, which provides free care to all residents. Now, as the health program’s finances face increasing pressure, Drayson, a former U.K. science minister, is on a mission to help save the government-funded NHS by selling access to patient data to drug and device companies. “This country has to pay its way in the world,” he says of the U.K. “How the NHS works with the global life sciences industry is key to the health of the nation.”

Drayson founded Sensyne Health Plc, a for-profit company that’s trying to get divisions of the NHS to agree to put patient information, including DNA sequences, into a large database. Over its 71-year history, the NHS has collected records on its patients and, in recent years, launched an intensive drive to collect and use patients’ DNA data for care and research. Sensyne’s initial target is to gather information on 5 million NHS patients; ultimately, Drayson says, he would like to have access to the data on all 55 million members. According to a coming report from EY consultants, the data could be worth as much as $12 billion annually in better patient care and health, and benefit to the U.K. economy. So far, Sensyne has signed up six of the NHS’s 150 hospital divisions, known as trusts, representing about 3 million patients, with each trust receiving Sensyne shares worth about $3 million.

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July 22, 2019

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