The first cohort of major biopharma members to the Alliance for Genomic Discovery (AGD) has been announced. The five founding members are AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, and Merck.
Launched in 2022 by Illumina and Nashville Biosciences, the Alliance for Genomic Discovery is a multiyear endeavor aiming to accelerate the development of therapeutics through large-scale genomics and the establishment of a preeminent clinical genomic resource. 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.
Member companies from pharma and biopharma 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. They will also have access to associated structured data from VUMC’s electronic medical records over the past 15 years. This combo of phenotypic and genotypic data is a differentiator from existing population sequencing datasets.
The partnership provides access to a unique combination of highly valuable, actionable genomic and medical data, with an aim to accelerate the discovery of therapeutic targets that are more actionable in the treatment and cure of diseases.
One of the main objectives of the AGD 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.
Early in 2023, Illumina and Nashville Bio announced a separate agreement with Amgen to have its subsidiary deCODE sequence an initial cohort of 35,000 samples, made up primarily of DNA from individuals of African ancestries. 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. 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.
With today’s announcement, deCODE genetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Amgen, will sequence the remaining samples for the Alliance.
The multiyear agreement aims to accelerate the 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’s 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.
“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.