Merck KGaA and Pfizer tap into Broad Institute's data skills for lupus project

Last month Pfizer ($PFE) and the Broad Institute published details of their work to find diabetes drug targets in genome data. Having seen the potential of Broad's genome data-crunching skills, Pfizer has teamed with Merck KGaA to give the institute another pot of cash to investigate lupus.

The pharma rivals are jointly funding the project, which will see Broad investigate the interrelated autoimmune diseases systemic lupus erythematosus and lupus nephritis using genome profiling. In return for their funding , Merck KGaA and Pfizer will receive real-time access to data and analysis Broad generates by sequencing clinical samples and modeling the molecular drivers of the diseases. Broad Institute's Professor Nir Hacohen gave an overview of the work in a statement.

"We will collect millions of unbiased measurements from lupus patients over many time points along with key clinical variables," Hacohen said. "We will use this data set to infer active biological pathways in these patients and develop novel dynamic models of lupus pathogenesis." Hacohen and his colleagues have already developed a strategy to unpick the causes of lupus and will build on this work using funds from Merck KGaA and Pfizer.

For both companies, the deal with Broad is a continuation of attempts to build genomic insights into their R&D programs. As well as accessing data generated by Broad, Merck KGaA and Pfizer will both be able to send a scientist to Broad to soak up its knowledge of computational and experimental genomic profiling.

- read FierceBiotech's take
- here's the press release