In a widely shared video on social media, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, is recorded saying that he is the “proud shareholder of Genomics England”. This has prompted users to raise concerns of a conflict of interest.
Mr Hancock was speaking at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference, known as Davos in 2019 to discuss genome sequencing and genomic health data.
Genomics England was set up in 2013 with the aim of “enabling faster, deeper genomic research” and bringing “genomic healthcare to all who need it”. It is a company owned and funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, although some of its key projects such as the 100,000 Genomes Project are funded by a number of partner organisations.
Genomics England is a private limited company, and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is the only shareholder. Although that does mean Matt Hancock is the current sole shareholder, this will shift to any Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that comes after him. Therefore being a shareholder of Genomics England is a part of the job of being Health Secretary.
He does not personally benefit from any profit Genomics England might make.
Incidentally, any surplus made through Genomics England has been documented as being “invested back into improving health”.