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Illumina launches iHope Network for philanthropic clinical whole genome sequencing program

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Illumina has launched the iHope Network, a consortium of member institutions who have committed to providing clinical whole genome sequencing (cWGS) to underserved families. Today, the iHope Network consists of clinical laboratory members: Illumina, Genome.One, GeneDx, HudsonAlpha and their affiliate healthcare partners.

Through whole-genome sequencing—the process of determining the genetic code or instructions in the cells within a person’s body—the iHope Network and their respective clinical partners strive to end years-long diagnostic odysseys. These odysseys average seven years in length and include multiple inconclusive tests, surgeries and procedures, many of which do not result in answers or treatment options for these children and their families.

The iHope Network members have committed to a minimum philanthropic donation of 10 whole genome tests per year (10 patients). Additionally, iHope Network organizations have agreed to donate the variants identified through iHope to public databases, like Clinvar, which are freely accessible, public archives of reports of the relationships among human variations and their related symptoms or diseases. By doing so, the public wealth of knowledge will continue to grow and provide benefit to many more patients who depend on the precision of genomic medicine.

With precision medicine and large-scale genomic initiatives being launched across the globe, genomics is reaching an inflection point in public awareness. The iHope program aims to build on that public awareness by demonstrating how next-generation sequencing can create a significant impact—by helping undiagnosed patients and their families find long sought-after answers.

“We are delighted to become a participating partner of Illumina’s iHope Network” said Jane Juusola, Ph.D., FACMG, Director of the Clinical Genomics Program, GeneDx. “As a laboratory founded to address the needs of patients diagnosed with rare genetic diseases, the very principle of the iHope program aligns with our founding mission. Through our donation of 10 whole-genome sequencing tests, we hope to bring closure to the diagnostic odysseys for children with undiagnosed rare diseases.”

“We’ve seen firsthand how a diagnosis can help families get a clearer understanding of the journey ahead,” said Marcel Dinger, CEO of Genome.One, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. “We’re very pleased to be part of the iHope Network that will help people who are currently unable to access clinical whole-genome sequencing and help to raise awareness about the value of WGS for rare and genetic disease.”

“The evidence is clear that genomic medicine can directly benefit patients. And there are millions of patients who need whole-genome sequencing today, and who cannot afford it,” said Howard J. Jacob, Ph.D., executive vice president for Genomic Medicine and chief genomic medicine officer, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. “The more people who are helped through this initiative, the better the likelihood whole-genome sequencing will be integrated into clinical practice around the globe. We are proud to join the iHope Network and help save lives.”

The ultimate goal of the iHope Network is to increase awareness and adoption of cWGS and demonstrate to the community that clinical whole genomes are a needed resource for all pediatric patients facing rare and undiagnosed diseases. An iHope Network Summit will take place later this year.

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