A Nobel laureate has devised a method to obtain information from thousands of genomes at once in an advance that could speed up the search for the causes of diseases and new treatments.

South African-born doctor Sydney Brenner said on Wednesday his new method will allow researchers to discover information about genetic differences of whole populations very quickly.

“In order for disease research to provide more immediate benefits for society, we do not have to know everything about every gene,” Dr Brenner said in a statement.

But what is important is uncovering variations in genes that contribute to diseases.

“This new technology will enable users to discover extremely quickly much information about such gene variants from studies of whole populations,” he added.

The Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s biggest research charities, has granted a new company called Population Genetics Technologies $US2.1 million to develop the method that could improve understanding of why people react to drugs differently and how to tailor medications to suit an individual.

“Our new method, if successful, will be a huge leap forward as it is expected to provide a significant cost advantage over other techniques which analyse one genome at a time, no matter how efficiently,” said Dr Sam Eletr, a co-founder of the company which will be based in Cambridge, England.

Dr Brenner shared the Nobel medicine prize in 2002 with Robert Horvitz of the United States and Briton John Sulston for their work on genetic regulation of organ development and cell death.

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