100,000 Genomes Project taps Big Pharma dream team for data crunching skills

The United Kingdom has wasted no time getting industry involved with its 100,000 Genomes Project. With just 3% of the sequencing work done, Genomics England has enlisted the help of a who's who of Big Pharma companies to pore over the data in search of new avenues for drug discovery.

AbbVie ($ABBV), AstraZeneca ($AZN), Biogen ($BIIB), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Roche ($RHHBY) are among the 10 companies to sign up to oversee a one-year trial of the Genomics Expert Network for Enterprises (GENE) Consortium. The plan is to give companies access to a selection of sequencing data from patients with cancer and rare diseases, the two focus areas of the overall initiative. Over the one-year trial period, industry researchers will look for therapeutic opportunities in the data while also establishing the best ways of working with their peers in the NHS and academia.

Genomics England's Sir John Chisholm

The outcome of the trial will go some way to establishing whether the project can provide a basis for new therapeutic breakthroughs while also luring drug developers back to the U.K. Genomics England must tread carefully, though, particularly with regard to data privacy. Participants in the project have volunteered to take part and many want to share their data for research--lessening the likelihood of another mess like Care.Data--but privacy is still a concern. Recognizing this, Genomics England's Sir John Chisholm told the Financial Times access is "more like a reading library than a lending library."

Establishing the details of how this will work in practice is one aspect of the GENE Consortium pilot project. If Genomics England gets it right, it could provide a way for companies that have opted against establishing in-house or partnered sequencing operations to get in on the genomics scene. As it stands, an array of initiatives are advancing, spanning Amgen ($AMGN) and Regeneron's ($REGN) biopharma-led programs, 23andMe's in-house and partnered projects and other national-level sequencing agendas.

- read the release
- here's the FT article
- and FierceBiotech's take