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AstraZeneca launches integrated genomics approach

Monday, April 25, 2016

AstraZeneca and its global biologics R&D arm MedImmune have announced an integrated genomics initiative to transform drug discovery and development across its entire R&D pipeline.

The initiative includes new collaborations with Human Longevity, U.S.; the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, U.K., and The Institute for Molecular Medicine, Finland. AstraZeneca will also establish an in-house Centre for Genomics Research, which will develop a bespoke database comprising genome sequences from samples donated by patients in its clinical trials together with associated clinical and drug response data.

AstraZeneca believes that embedding genomics across its R&D platforms will:

  • Deliver novel insights into the biology of diseases
  • Enable the identification of new targets for medicines
  • Support selection of patients for clinical trials
  • Allow patients to be matched with treatments more likely to benefit them.

Menelas Pangalos, executive vice president, Innovative Medicines & Early Development at AstraZeneca, said, “Using the power of genomics is the foundation of our ambition to develop the most innovative and impactful treatments for patients. 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 center. We will leverage information from up to two million genome sequences, including over 500,000 from our own clinical trials, to drive drug discovery and development across all our therapeutic areas. Genomics will be fundamental to our laboratory research, our clinical trials and the launch of our medicines for patients.”

AstraZeneca aims to share up to 500,000 DNA samples with Human Longevity, from which Human Longevity will sequence full genomes and deploy its state-of-the-art machine learning, pattern recognition and other analytical techniques. These genomic samples will include those donated by patients under optional informed consent in AstraZeneca’s clinical trials. AstraZeneca will also gain access to Human Longevity’s unique database of up to 1 million integrated genomic and health records to add to its analysis.

AstraZeneca is creating an in-house Centre for Genomics Research focused on the creation and use of a bespoke database of genome sequences from samples donated by patients in its clinical trials over the past 15 and over the next 10 years, integrated with associated clinical and drug response data. In addition, the Centre will access up to 500,000 genomes available through AstraZeneca’s collaborations and from the public domain. The Centre will be located in AstraZeneca’s corporate headquarters in Cambridge and work closely with the international genomics community to derive broad scientific and clinical benefit from these unprecedented genomic resources.

AstraZeneca will establish a research team led by a genomics expert of international reputation, embedded within The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute’s world-renowned Genome Centre in Cambridge, U.K. AstraZeneca will share genomic samples and associated clinical data, plus its drug development expertise across core therapy areas. The two parties will identify new targets and biomarkers with potential use in diagnostic tests.

AstraZeneca will collaborate with The Institute for Molecular Medicine, Finland, and its partners in Finland and the U.S., to study genes of interest in the Finnish population, which is known to carry a higher than normal frequency of rare variants. Additionally, Finland has an integrated health record system supported by a national biobanking law that facilitates recall of volunteers for thorough clinical evaluation.

Bahija Jallal, executive vice president, MedImmune, said, “The fields of genetics and genomics evolve so rapidly that no single company can internalize this type of research and do it all themselves. We are acutely aware of this, which is why we have chosen to work with the genomics community to leverage external expertise in genomic analyses and the design of large-scale genetic studies. Together, with the rich clinical data from our biobank, we will translate these findings into better understanding of disease and ultimately, more effective treatments for patients.”

In line with AstraZeneca’s “open innovation” approach to R&D, research findings from all collaborations across its genomic platform will be published in peer-reviewed journals, contributing to the broader scientific understanding of the genetic influence of disease and positioning AstraZeneca as a key player in the global genomics research community.

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