Follicular lymphoma (FL), the most common indolent lymphoma, is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous disease. However, the prognostic value of driver gene mutations and copy number alterations has not been systematically assessed. Here, we analysed the clinical-biological features of 415 FL patients to identify variables associated with disease progression within 24 months of first-line therapy (POD24). Patients with B symptoms, elevated lactate dehydrogenase and β2-microglobulin levels, unfavourable baseline haemoglobin levels, advanced stage, and high-risk FL International Prognostic Index (FLIPI) scores had an increased risk of POD24, with FLIPI being the most important factor in logistic regression. HIST1H1D, identified as a driver mutation, was correlated with POD24. Gains of 6p22.2 (HIST1H1D) and 18q21.33 (BCL2) and loss of 1p36.13 (NBPF1) predicted POD24 independent of FLIPI. Gene expression profiling of FL samples showed that the POD24 cohort was significantly enriched in the inflammatory response (mediated by interferon and tumour necrosis factor), cell cycle regulation (transcription, replication and proliferation) sets and PI3K-AKT-mTOR signalling. This result was further validated with transcriptome-wide information provided by RNA-seq at single-cell resolution. Our study, performed on a large cohort of FL patients, highlights the importance of distinctive genetic alterations and gene expression relevant to disease diagnosis and early progression.© 2023 British Society for Haematology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.