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The Alliance for Genomic Discovery announces founding biopharma members: AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, and Merck
Alliance aims to accelerate therapeutic development and expand the diversity of genomic data through inclusion of more samples from currently underrepresented ancestries.
Illumina Inc., a global leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies, in collaboration with Nashville Biosciences, LLC, a leading clinical and genomic data company and wholly owned subsidiary of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), has announced the five founding members of the Alliance for Genomic Discovery (AGD). The multiyear agreement aims to accelerate development of therapeutics through large-scale genomics and the establishment of a preeminent clinical genomic resource. Member organizations AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, and Merck will co-fund the whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of 250,000 samples and have access to the resulting data for use in drug discovery and therapeutic development.
"We are thrilled to welcome these esteemed companies as the founding cohort in the Alliance for Genomic Discovery," said Joydeep Goswami, chief financial officer and chief strategy and corporate development officer of Illumina. "Together, we aim to advance genomics and multiomics-based methods for finding therapeutic targets that are more actionable in the treatment and curing of diseases, while also improving the speed, probability of success, and efficiency of the discovery and development process."
The AGD supports a turnkey project leveraging Illumina next-generation sequencing and analysis platforms that include DRAGEN for secondary analysis with comprehensive Nirvana clinical variant annotation and Illumina Connected Analytics for large-scale interpretation and cohort analysis, combined with VUMC's longitudinal, structured clinical data. This powerful combination of tools and deep phenotypic and genotypic data will help identify disease associations and targets for intervention by analyzing WGS data derived from VUMC's extensive, high-quality biobank of more than 250,000 de-identified human DNA samples and associated clinical data.
"Collaborations like the Alliance are fundamental to answering the pressing questions in human biology and disease, unlocking the potential for discovery of more effective therapeutics and diagnostics," said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, president and CEO of VUMC and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "VUMC and Nashville Biosciences are honored to support our industry partners in this groundbreaking endeavor."
With the announcement, deCODE genetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Amgen, will sequence the remaining samples for the Alliance. In January 2023, as the first phase in the AGD, Illumina and Nashville Biosciences announced an agreement with Amgen for deCODE genetics to perform WGS on the first 35,000 VUMC samples, primarily made up of DNA from individuals of African ancestry. The lack of diversity in genomic data has created a gap in the scientific understanding of the underlying genetic causes of many diseases and has inhibited equitable access to precision health therapies. Through its collaborative work, the Alliance seeks to advance the understanding of these disparities.
"Once complete, this dataset will serve as an incredible resource for the discovery of new therapies and drugs; we are thrilled to see this exciting initiative come to fruition," said Leeland Ekstrom, CEO of Nashville Biosciences.
About the Alliance for Genomic Discovery
Launched in 2022 by Illumina and Nashville Biosciences, the Alliance for Genomic Discovery is a multiyear endeavor aiming to accelerate development of therapeutics through large-scale genomics and the establishment of a preeminent clinical genomic resource. Member companies from pharma and biopharma leverage Illumina next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms to identify disease associations and targets for intervention by analyzing whole-genome sequence data derived from Vanderbilt University Medical Center's BioVU®, an extensive, high-quality biobank of more than 250,000 de-identified human DNA samples and associated longitudinal, structured clinical data. One of the main objectives of the Alliance is to help narrow the gap in the diversity of genomic data, and ultimately work toward a more equitable representation of ancestries in genetic research.
Illumina is improving human health by unlocking the power of the genome. In 2023 we celebrate 25 years of innovation, which has established us as a global leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies, serving customers in the research, clinical, and applied markets. Our products are used for applications in the life sciences, oncology, reproductive health, agriculture, and other emerging segments.
Nashville Biosciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), was created to harness the Medical Center's extensive genomic and bioinformatics resources for drug and diagnostics discovery and development. Leveraging Vanderbilt University innovation, Nashville Biosciences serves as a commercial interface between outside companies and the formidable research capabilities housed within VUMC, including BioVU®, one of the world's most comprehensive genetic databases linked to de-identified medical records with years of longitudinal clinical data. This unique asset is one of the largest and highest quality of its kind, providing an opportunity to guide R&D activity in biotech, pharma, diagnostics, medical devices, and other life sciences applications.