A "landmark" £300 million project which will map 100,000 DNA code sequences was unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he hoped that it would help Britain would become a world leader in genetic research.
ITV News correspondent Neil Connery reports
The 100,000 Genome Project will sequence the entire genetic codes, also known as genomes, of 75,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases, plus their close relatives. Cancer patients will have the DNA of both healthy and tumour cells mapped, creating 100,000 DNA code sequences in total.
Mr Cameron said: "This agreement will see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years. I am determined to do all I can to support the health and scientific sector to unlock the power of DNA, turning an important scientific breakthrough into something that will help deliver better tests, better drugs and above all better care for patients."
No study of this size has ever been attempted before and by the time it is completed in 2017, researchers hope it will revolutionise medicine.
Scientists think the project will be pivotal to the development of future personalised treatments based on genetics, instead of treating everyone in a similar way.
As a result, some like Professor Jeremy Farrar, director of health charity the Wellcome Trust, believe that genome sequencing could make treatments like chemotherapy, a thing of the past.
He said: "Twenty years from now academics and industry will have developed therapies which will be targeted at you and specific forms of cancer."
He added: "We will look back in 20 years time and the blockbuster chemotherapy drugs that gave you all those nasty side effects will be a thing of the past."
Parents like Edward Sherley-Price, whose 11-year-old daughter Alysia has been diagnosed with a genetic condition, said he hopes the project will help her in the future.
He said: "With the genome project we can really think about using that research and focusing it on the condition the Alysia has got and hopefully in months and years to come more and more potential answers will come."