UCB taps Congenica tech for help with target discovery

UCB has turned to Congenica for help spotting rare-disease genes that can lead it to drug targets. The collaboration is centered upon Congencia's Sapientia, software that helps researchers spot gene mutations that are linked to disorders from within a pool of whole genome sequencing data.

Striking the deal pushes Congenica deeper into the drug discovery sector. To date, the firm, which is commercializing technology originally developed by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, is perhaps best known for winning a contract to interpret the genomes of 8,000 participants in the 100,000 Genomes Project, the United Kingdom's population-scale sequencing initiative. Now, with UCB becoming the first pharma to sign up to work with Congenica on rare-disease research, the company has a chance to prove its software is useful outside of clinical diagnostic settings.

UCB likes what it has seen to date. "This arrangement will provide access to a cutting-edge genome sequence analysis and decision support environment that will help us effectively resolve the genetic origins of rare disease," UCB Senior Principal Scientist Matthew Page said in a statement. The deal represents an attempt by UCB to refine and strengthen its drug discovery operation through the analysis of genetic data, a resource that has grown quickly as the cost of sequencing has fallen in recent years.

UCB's Martin Armstrong

"Generating sequencing data is not the challenge, making sense of it is. We need to be able to analyse and interpret NGS data in the correct biological context and in a manner that allows us to make informed decisions on what might, or might not be, a relevant target or mechanism to pursue," UCB Senior Director of Molecular Genetics Martin Armstrong said. "The competitive advantage will be achieved by doing this in an efficient and objective manner, integrating supporting data from multiple sources and making use of the latest analytical tools and platforms."

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