and Regeneron to mine gene data from 500,000 Britons
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[March 23, 2017] By
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's
GlaxoSmithKline and U.S.-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals are embarking
on a joint project with UK Biobank, the world's most detailed biomedical
database, to hunt for new clues linking genes and disease.
By analyzing genetic variations and health in 500,000 middle-aged
and older Britons, the partners said on Thursday they hoped to
identify promising leads for new medicines.
The aim is to analyze DNA from an initial 50,000 samples by the end
of 2017, using Regeneron's large gene sequencing center in New York.
Completing a gene sweep for all 500,000 participants is expected to
take three to five years.
The move marks an acceleration of investment by drugmakers in
genetic science, as industrial-scale sequencing and falling costs
allow research teams to quickly test for the effect of gene
variations across thousands of individuals.
GSK's British rival AstraZeneca signed a similar deal with genome
pioneer Craig Venter a year ago to sequence genes from up to 2
million people over 10 years.
Volunteers aged between 40 and 69 first checked into the UK Biobank
between 2006 and 2010, donating blood and other biological samples
and agreeing to have their health followed through medical records
over many years.
Lon Cardon, head of target sciences at GSK R&D, said the database
was now coming into its own as an information source as growing
numbers of participants start to develop conditions from cancer to
dementia, which can be cross-checked against genes.
GSK and Regeneron will get nine months exclusivity to pore over the
initial trawl of data before the information is made openly
available to other scientists. Any research findings will also be
put back into the public domain.
Both drug companies hope the information throws up new opportunities
for drug development, but they view the exercise as
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Apart from paying the cost of sample retrieval and shipping, GSK and
Regeneron will not be charged by UK Biobank. Instead, they will
effectively make a "payment in kind" by sequencing the DNA for
future use by the wider scientific community.
Sequencing all the protein-encoding parts of all the genes from the
project's 500,000 participants will cost an estimated $150 million.
Such so-called exome sequencing costs about $300 per individual,
against $1,000 for whole genome sequencing.
All the genetic and other medical data collected by UK Biobank has
been anonymized and participants will not get any feedback on their
(Editing by Susan Thomas)
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