AstraZeneca dives into genetics of 80,000 samples in search of CV, diabetes insights

AstraZeneca ($AZN) is digging through the genomes of 80,000 people in search of genes linked to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The project is a collaboration with the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI), which will genotype 80,000 samples from AstraZeneca's biobank of blood and tissue samples.

MHI is taking a multistep approach to the genotyping process, starting with a genomewide single nucleotide polymorphism analysis to spot stretches of DNA of relevance to the development of disease and response to treatment. The team will then home in on areas of interest and perform full gene sequencing in an attempt to make new discoveries. AstraZeneca is interested in genes that affect the development of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, associated complications such as heart attacks and patient response to treatment.

The Big Pharma thinks such insights are locked away in the biobank of samples from clinical trial participants it has built over the past 12 years, but it needs MHI's technological skills to uncover them. "We're delighted to be working with the Montreal Heart Institute, which has the expertise and technological know-how to deliver this transformational programme which will unlock an unprecedented amount of genetic information about cardiovascular diseases and diabetes," AstraZeneca Personalized Healthcare and Biomarkers VP Ruth March said in a statement.

Such statements are now a common theme in how AstraZeneca presents its pipeline to the world. The company claims that 80% of its pipeline "benefits from a personalized healthcare approach," a model it sees as a way to treat patients with the drugs to which they are most likely to respond. AstraZeneca implemented another piece of this strategy on the day of the MHI news, striking a deal with Abbott ($ABT) to develop a companion diagnostic for its severe asthma candidate, tralokinumab.

- read the MHI news
- here's the Abbott release