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AstraZeneca to launch its own 'two million genomes' project

25 April 2016

By Rachel Siden

Appeared in BioNews 848

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has signed deals with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK, the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Finland, and Dr Craig Venter's Human Longevity start-up, to launch one of the largest genome-sequencing efforts yet undertaken.

As part of the renewed personalised medicine push, AstraZeneca will establish its own Centre for Genomics Research, where scientists will draw on a database of genome sequences and clinical trial data. The company says that by investing heavily in genomics it aims to sharpen its target identification efforts, improve selection of participants for clinical trials, and allow patients to be matched with treatments more likely to benefit them.

Dr Menelas Pangalos, executive vice president at AstraZeneca, said: '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.'

A ten-year partnership with Human Longevity, based in San Diego, California, is at the heart of AstraZeneca's programme. In addition to sequencing the 500,000 genomic samples from AstraZeneca clinical trials, Human Longevity will give AstraZeneca access to its database of genome sequences and health records, which the company says should contain one million entries by 2020.

Dr Venter, the founder and chief executive of Human Longevity, said his company would work with AstraZeneca 'and use Human Longevity's proprietary computational methods and genomic data insights to better inform clinical trials and drug development'.

AstraZeneca will also partner with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute's Genome Centre in Cambridge to identify new drug targets, as well as the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Helsinki, Finland, to study rare genetic variants among the Finnish population using records in their national biobank.

At the press conference announcing the collaboration, Dr Mike Stratton, the Sanger Institute's director, said that the institute's scientists would 'walk the corridors of AstraZeneca' and 'open the doors between the two intellectual worlds', according to Science

No financial details of the deals have been disclosed.

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