A new collaboration between Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and five other drugmakers aims to speed up the generation of genetic exome sequence data from the 500,000 participants of the UK Biobank, an initiative that could support advances in the development of new medicines for a range of diseases.
Collaborators include AbbVie, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Biogen and Pfizer Inc. Each company will contribute $10 million to accelerate the project, and additional companies are considering joining the consortium, Regeneron said in a statement.
From 2006 to 2010, U.K. Biobank collected information and samples from 500,000 volunteers. The study aims to help scientists discover why some people develop particular diseases and others do not.
Regeneron first announced the initiative as part of a partnership with British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline plc. Under that program, the sequencing of all 500,000 samples in the UK Biobank was slated for completion by 2022.
Under the new timeline, the companies aim to complete the exome sequencing by the end of 2019.
Regeneron will continue to conduct the sequencing at its genetics center facility. Launched in January 2014, the genetics center on the Landmark at Eastview biotech campus is a genomics program that spans early gene discovery and facilitates drug development.
“With mounting national and global health concerns due to widespread increases in obesity-related diseases like diabetes, and age-related diseases such as dementia, together with the ongoing threats of cardiovascular disease, cancer and infectious agents, it is a great statement that so many leading life sciences companies are willing to put aside their individual differences and come together to bring this unprecedented, pre-competitive ‘big data’ resource to the world,” said Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron.
Consortium members will have a limited period of exclusive access to the sequencing data before it is made available to other health researchers by UK Biobank. Consortium members have committed to make all significant research findings public.