AstraZeneca launches massive drug discovery effort, aims to sequence 2 million genomes
- In an effort to integrate genomics across drug development, AstraZeneca is launching a sweeping project to sequence 2 million genomes and use DNA data to better identify treatments and match them to patients.
- The company plans to build a database of sequenced genomes from DNA samples donated by patients in its clinical trials. As part of this effort, AstraZeneca will share up to 500,000 DNA samples with Human Longevity, Inc, a U.S. sequencing and machine learning company.
- In addition to collaborations, AstraZeneca will set up its own Centre for Genomics Research in its Cambridge headquarters to take charge of the database creation.
AstraZeneca hopes the project will result in the identification of new drug targets throughout its R&D pipeline. But more than that, the genomics sequencing on this scale could hopefully help AstraZeneca better select patients for clinical trials and subsequently match treatments to the patients who stand to benefit the most from them.
"With the advent of next generation sequencing and the increased sophistication of data analysis, the time is now right to immerse ourselves fully in the international genomics community through these pioneering collaborations and through the creation of our own genome centre," said Menelas Pangalos, head of Innovative Medicines & Early Development as AstraZeneca.
As part of its collaboration with Human Longevity, AstraZeneca will gain access to Human Longevity's database of 1 million genomic and heath records. Adding in 500,000 DNA samples from AstraZeneca clinical trials, Human Longevity will use machine learning to find patterns out of the vast trove of genomic data.
The company will also partner with The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, also based in Cambridge, U.K. and the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland. A research team from AstraZeneca will be embedded in the Sanger Institute's Genome Centre and will work to unearth new biomarkers for diagnostic tests through the sharing of genomic and clinical data.
For the moment, AstraZeneca plans the work in creating this new database to stretch over the next 10 years, but the project will also include sequences from samples donated in the past 15 years. Financial details were not disclosed although it is likely to be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Reuters.
While other pharma companies, such as Regeneron or Genentech, have worked sequencing genomes before, AstraZeneca's new project appears to be one of the largest to date.
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