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LONDON — England is launching a pilot program sequencing the genomes of up to 100,000 newborns to see if such a strategy can speed up the detection of genetic illnesses.

The Newborn Genomes Programme will scan DNA for mutations that can cause some 200 conditions. Such early sequencing is meant to quickly identify genetic diseases and to help families avoid the often yearslong “diagnostic odysseys” that can begin when children start to show vague symptoms — missing developmental milestones, for example — and only end when they eventually get a firm diagnosis. Early interventions, perhaps before symptoms appear, could also stave off the damage these diseases cause.


“Is there a way that we can get ahead of this?” Rich Scott, the chief medical officer of Genomics England, said on a call with reporters, referring to the onset of disease that usually then leads to a diagnosis.

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