|President Barack Obama|
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals ($REGN) is lobbying for the exome sequencing database it is building with Geisinger Health System to become the linchpin of President Obama's Precision Medicine program. The idea is for a consortium of drugmakers to fund the database, giving Regeneron a way of clawing back some of its investment while waiting for long-term drug R&D bets to pay off.
Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron hooked up with Geisinger in January 2014 to sequence the exomes of 250,000 people. The idea is to build a database from which Regeneron can uncover drug targets like PCSK9, the gene inhibited by its hotly-anticipated, Sanofi ($SNY)-partnered cholesterol drug. Regeneron began building the database to support its in-house R&D programs, but Reuters reports it is now interested in opening up access. The idea is to make the database a key component of the Precision Medicine program and have other drugmakers fund the work.
Databases from Kaiser Permanente, Mayo Clinic and the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin are also being considered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is expected to make a decision later this year. If Regeneron wins out, it is proposing to create a consortium of drugmakers that pays for access to the database, giving it a near-term return on its investment in the sequencing project. The bigger, more distant payday is the approval of a drug discovered as a result of the database.
Regeneron has already identified some possible research leads in the first 35,000 patients it has sequenced with Geisinger. The initiative has identified around 100 people with mutations similar to those discovered among the residents of Campodimele, an Italian village, in 1991. Low levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are associated with the mutation. Regeneron is also using the data to investigate the genetic causes of obesity in children, leading to the association between certain mutations and a 10-pound increase in the weight of adults.
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