Source: iStock/© omgimages
Source: iStock/© omgimages

Ten biopharma companies have joined together to create the Genomics Expert Network for Enterprises (GENE) Consortium, which will oversee a year-long trial designed to integrate industry expertise into the 100,000 Genomes Project—the U.K.’s effort to catapult itself to global leadership in genetic research into cancer and rare diseases.

Through the GENE Consortium, the companies will work to discover how best to collaborate with clinicians and researchers in studying a selection of whole genome sequences across cancer and rare diseases. The consortium’s work is intended to accelerate the development of new diagnostics and treatments for patients, said Genomics England, the entity created by the U.K. Department of Health to run the 100,000 Genomes Project.

The GENE Consortium’s 10 companies are: AbbVie, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Biogen (which changed its name from Biogen Idec as of Monday), Dimension Therapeutics, GlaxoSmithKline, Helomics, Roche, Takeda, and UCB—whose participation is subject to contract negotiation and signature, Genomics England added.

“We are particularly looking forward to contributing our expertise in understanding the role of biomarkers and personalised healthcare in the development of targeted medicines for patients,” Mene Pangalos, Ph.D., AstraZeneca’s evp of innovative medicines and early development, said in a statement.

Helomics said in a company statement it will provide its PCAPTM tumor profiling technology and diagnostics-focused expertise to the consortium. The company said its goal was to identify new biomarkers that could be used to develop more advanced cancer diagnostic tests and ultimately lead to new levels of personalized medicine.

Genomics England also disclosed the areas where leading clinicians and scientists across the U.K. will explore within Genomics England’s Clinical Interpretation Partnership (GeCIP), formed to identify scientific findings and medical discoveries from the 100,000 Genomes dataset.

As part of GeCIP, more than 28 teams or “domains” will be established for clinical and research experts in which to work. These include rare disease—a category it said will include cardiovascular, neurological, paediatrics domains—as well as cancers; pan-cancer analysis across many cancers; functional effects on gene expression, proteins and life-long DNA changes; electronic health records research; ethics, law and social science; health economics; validation and feedback.

The 28 were selected from 88 applications to join GeCIP made by more than 2,000 researchers, clinicians, analysts, and trainees following a call to the research community in November 2014, Genomics England said.

GeCIP—whose members will include academic institutions, the National Health Service (NHS) Genomic Medicine Centres and industry—will ultimately bring together more than 4,000 U.K. clinicians and scientists, as well as over 500 international collaborators specializing in genomic medicine, Professor Mark Caulfield, M.D., FMedSci, chief scientist for Genomics England, said in a statement.

“We hope that this unique collaboration will lead to earlier and more precise diagnoses for patients and, working with companies, will pave the way for new, more targeted therapies and treatments,” Professor Caulfield added.

According to Genomics England, nearly 3,000 genomes have been sequenced to date as part of the 100,000 Genomes Project, launched in late 2012 by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron with the goal of mapping 100,000 human genomes from NHS patients by 2017. The project is focusing on patients with rare diseases, and their families, as well as patients with common cancers.

Last year, Illumina, the U.K., and the Wellcome Trust agreed to spend £311 million (nearly $464 million) over four years on the project, which relies on a public-private partnership formed between sequencing giant Illumina and Genomics England.

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