Source: Tom Merton/Getty Images
Source: Tom Merton/Getty Images

Predictive health company Sema4 and Mt. Sinai Health System have announced a collaboration with Big Pharma company Sanofi to delve into the biological mechanisms and other factors influencing asthma.

The five-year study seeks to enroll 1,200 patients and will collect a broad range of data including immunological, environment and those derived from mobile health monitors, in addition to traditional clinical and genomic data.

According to Andrew Kasarskis, Ph.D., vice chair in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mt. Sinai, one of the goals of the research will be to subtype asthma and once that is done, to elicit the molecular basis of each subtype. This should allow for new avenues in the development of new therapies and methods for managing the disease.

This goal plays right into the sweet spot for Sema4, which is looking to tackle disease using a systems approach and wants to push beyond the current methods of treating patients as part of a large, homologous group. “We believe the best way to promote wellness is to understand humans holistically, as systems akin to vast information networks,” the company explains on its website. It accomplishes this by looking to collect, curate and analyze patient data that is not typically used, such as data from wearables, or data that takes into account the living environment of the patients.

“Asthma is an incredibly complex condition associated with genetics, environmental factors, activity levels, the immune system and more,” said Eric Schadt, Ph.D., CEO of Sema4. “We believe the only way to fully understand asthma is by using sophisticated modeling tools to mine the rich, multi-dimensional data set we aim to generate in this study. This approach could reveal entirely new avenues for alleviating and more effectively treating asthma.”

In this vein, the researches on the project will collect real-world data about patients through molecular profiling of biological samples and digital monitoring of the environment. All three organizations will analyze the data generated from the project to try to better understand the broad variability of asthma to discover what triggers attacks, which patients are more likely to respond to therapies, and why the disease affects each person differently, with the overarching goal of discovering new drug targets and more effective treatment.    

“Our goal is to develop a holistic view of each patient in the study, which is why we’re excited to add digital technology to the traditional types of medical examinations conducted in this study, said Frank Nestle, global head of immunology and inflammation research and Chief Scientific Officer, North America, at Sanofi. “It’s a new way to approach this enormous problem, connecting real world clinical and scientific data, that we hope will translate into new ways to treat asthma.”

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