AstraZeneca Launches Genomics Initiatives with HLI, Sanger, and FIMM

April 22, 2016

Human Longevity Inc. (HLI) will sequence and analyze up to 500,000 DNA samples from patients in AstraZeneca clinical trials over 10 years in one of four genomics-focused initiatives announced today by the pharma giant and its global biologics R&D arm MedImmune.

The value of the collaboration with HLI and other initiatives was not disclosed.

AstraZeneca has agreed to share with HLI up to 500,000 DNA samples collected under optional informed consent in the pharma giant’s clinical studies. HLI plans to sequence the genomes from these samples, as well as from future samples donated over the next decade by patients in AstraZeneca trials.

AstraZeneca will join HLI in interpreting the genomic data using HLI’s machine learning, pattern recognition, and analytical techniques. HLI said genomic insights collected from the samples will be added into its HLI Knowledgebase™ database, through which the company plans to store up to 1 million integrated health records with genomic, molecular, and clinical data by 2020.

Knowledgebase contains tens of thousands of samples with genomic and phenotypic data. According to HLI, purposes for the data include aiding in discovery of biomarker and companion diagnostics and rescuing and repurposing drugs from failed clinical trials.

“We look forward to working together to use HLI's proprietary computational methods and genomic data insights to better inform clinical trials and drug development,” J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., HLI’s co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Dr. Venter and two co-founders launched HLI in 2014 with the goal of creating the world's largest and most comprehensive database of whole genome, phenotype, and clinical data. The company aims to develop and apply large-scale computing and machine learning to make discoveries intended to revolutionize the practice of medicine.

AstraZeneca also said it will also create an in-house Centre for Genomics Research at its headquarters in Cambridge, U.K. The new center will create and use a database of genome sequences from samples donated by patients in its clinical trials over the past 15 years as well as the next 10 years, integrated with related clinical and drug response data.

Up to 500,000 genomes will be accessed by the center through AstraZeneca collaborations and from the public domain, the company said.

In the other two genomics collaborations, AstraZeneca said it will:

  • Partner with The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to establish a research team, to be led by a genomics expert of international reputation. The team will identify new targets and biomarkers with potential use in diagnostic tests. AstraZeneca said it will share genomic samples and associated clinical data, plus its drug development expertise across core therapy areas.
  • Collaborate with The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki, to study genes of interest in the Finnish population, known to carry a higher than normal frequency of rare variants. The alliance will make use of Finland’s integrated health record system, which is supported by a national biobanking law designed to facilitate the recall of volunteers for clinical evaluation.
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