£200 million to U.K. Biobank for genetics-guided drug development

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, with partners has kicked off  a major research initiative which will enable researchers to gain valuable insights to support advances in the development of new medicines for a wide range of serious and life threatening diseases. 

Regeneron said on Tuesday that the initiative will be among the Regeneron Genetics Center (RGC), U.K. Biobank and GSK, and will generate genetic sequence data from the 500,000 volunteer participants in the U.K. Biobank resource,

According to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, an estimated 90% of potential drugs entering clinical trials don’t ever reach patients as they fail to reach show efficacy or safety. Many of the failed attempts are because lack of better understanding of the link between the biological target of a drug and human disease. Medicines developed with human genetic evidence have had substantially higher success rates and patient care has benefited, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said.

U.K. Biobank has been collecting information and samples from its 500,000 participants for the past ten years, and ensures that data provided to health researchers does not identify them. RGC and GSK have engaged in enabling the sequencing of the first 50,000 samples, to be completed before the end of 2017. Sequencing of U.K. Biobank’s samples will be performed at the RGC facility, one of the world’s largest human genetics sequencing centers. Sequencing of the full 500,000 samples in U.K. Biobank is should take three to five years.

£200 million invested in U.K. Biobank

Sir Rory Collins, U.K. Biobank Principal Investigator, said that genetics research is already shaping better treatments. “This exciting initiative is expected to start producing novel findings rapidly during this year and will make U.K. Biobank even more useful for health-related research,” said Collins, who is also a BHF Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology at Oxford University.

He said that the U.K. Government and charity medical research funders have invested about £200 million in U.K. Biobank. He said that the costs of gene sequencing are falling, but added that doing it on a large scale involves highly-specialized capabilities and is expensive. The cost is estimated at $150 million if all 500,000 participants are sequenced, said Collins. “That is why academia and industry working together is so important. The initial investment by GSK and Regeneron will be a tremendous boost to the value of the U.K. Biobank resource for academic and industry researchers around the world, studying many different conditions,” Collins said.

George D Yancopoulos, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, said: “Our large-scale sequencing and analysis capabilities, coupled with U.K. Biobank’s vast trove of de-identified biological and medical information, pose tremendous opportunities for clinically meaningful discoveries that can make a difference for patients.”

“We are pleased to expand upon our existing foundational research collaborations through this effort with the U.K. Biobank and GSK. For Regeneron, we believe this initiative will greatly enhance our existing efforts in gene discovery and genetics-guided drug development.”

Patrick Vallance, President, R&D at GSK, said this is the new era of drug discovery because of a fundamental change in our understanding of human biology, driven by advances in human genetics. He said that U.K. Biobank is one of the most important health resources available to scientists today, offering a rich source of information about health and disease.

“Having been actively involved in U.K. Biobank as a board member since 2013, I’m delighted that, through our collaboration with Regeneron, we can enrich this resource for the wider scientific community and also provide potential new opportunities for companies such as ours to develop new medicines for patients. It demonstrates how important the U.K. is as a center for innovative research. GSK is committed to ensuring that the U.K. continues to be an environment that fosters collaboration and supports end-to-end scientific progress, ranging from cutting-edge genomics to the rapid uptake of new approaches and medicines by the NHS, which can ultimately benefit patients,” said Vallance.


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