GSK and Sanofi join FinnGen, a large scale genome study of the Finnish population

The FinnGen study, launched in autumn 2017, is a broad academic-industrial collaboration between the Finnish biobanks and their respective Universities, University Hospitals, the Institute of Health and Welfare (THL), the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service and now nine international pharmaceutical companies. The study is funded by the industrial partners and Business Finland (the Finnish innovation funding, trade, investment, and travel promotion organisation).

FinnGen aims to produce comprehensive genome variant data of 500 000 biobank participants, representing one of the largest studies of this type. The genome data is combined with health data originating from multiple national health registries. Data from these registries provide longitudinal, life time follow-up data from each Finnish resident.

This unique data combination allows the FinnGen research team to identify correlations between genetic factors and health outcomes such as disease susceptibility or effectiveness of drug treatments in the Finnish founder population. The study has a huge potential to serve medicine initiatives and enrich drug discovery programs by enhancing drug target identification and prioritisation.

During the first year, FinnGen has already delivered genotype and health data from 102 000 Finns. The amount of data will increase throughout the project, with 40 – 50 000 individuals added every six months. As envisioned, FinnGen has also given a strong boost to the Finnish biobank network with more than 108 000 new samples collected, 30 000 of which are included in the current data freeze. Patient samples are of utmost importance for the study and there are, for example, more than 15 000 cancer patients and more than 30 000 patients with a cardio-metabolic diagnosis among this sample reservoir.

Thanks to the unique cooperation model, immense potential of the Finnish research environment for genetic studies and the favorable progress of the study during the first year, FinnGen has been found as an attractive opportunity by many pharmaceutical companies. Negotiations with two new company partners, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), have now been completed and they have decided to join FinnGen. Their partnership complements the research experience and interests of the current partners and brings additional funding that can be used to expand FinnGen research deliverables.

“FinnGen offers an exciting collaborative opportunity to study genetic impacts on human conditions over time in a world class research environment,” said Matt Nelson, Head of Human Genetics at GSK.

“This investment will complement our longstanding interest in human genetics and is consistent with our strategy of using genetics as a key enabler of drug discovery.”

“Sanofi is very pleased to join the FinnGen consortia – this large Finnish cohort will facilitate discovery of genetically validated targets, improved understanding of disease biology and progression and patient response to therapies. We anticipate the FinnGen Consortia will lead to insights in new and improved therapies for patients,” commented Katherine Klinger, Global Head, Translational Sciences, Sanofi.

The other industry partners, Abbvie, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Celgene, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA and Pfizer warmly welcome the new members to the FinnGen consortium.

“We are excited to welcome GSK and Sanofi to FinnGen,” said Heiko Runz, industry chair of the FinnGen Steering Committee and Head of Genetic Epidemiology at Biogen.

“This further emphasizes the collaborative spirit of this pre-competitive industry-academic partnership, which we hope will help advance the discovery of better and safer medicines.”

“With the contribution of the new partners, we are able to expand our already ambitious goals and to add a range of new analyses and further expedite the FinnGen sample collection,” said Aarno Palotie, Scientific Director of the FinnGen study, from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), HiLIFE, at the University of Helsinki.

A majority of the FinnGen samples come from hospital biobanks, with particular focus on recruitment in clinics covering disease areas often underrepresented in largely healthy, working age volunteer population studies – resulting in a collection enriched for important disease endpoints.

“With these additional resources, we aim to catalyse and support international biobank partnerships to perform meta-analyses that will generate additional insights from the greater power and global diversity that such partnerships can bring,” said Mark Daly, Director of FIMM and a co-architect of FinnGen.

With these new initiatives, the FinnGen study has even greater potential to address the global need for large datasets that enable genetic discoveries that improve our understanding of disease mechanisms and benefit global healthcare systems long into the future.

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ABOUT FINNGEN

The FinnGen study, launched in Finland in 2017, is a unique study that combines genome information with digital health care data. The FinnGen study plans to analyze up to 500,000 samples collected by a nation-wide network of Finnish biobanks. The project aims to improve human health through genetic research, and ultimately identify new therapeutic targets and diagnostics for treating numerous diseases. It produces near complete genome variant data from all the 500,000 participants using GWAS genotyping and imputation and will utilize the extensive longitudinal national health register data available on all Finns. FinnGen is an exceptionally broad academic-pharma partnership, having considerable public funding support from Business Finland. University of Helsinki is the organisation responsible for the study.

Coordinators:

University of Helsinki, HiLIFE,

Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland FIMM

Helsinki University Hospital (HUS)

The National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL)

Funders:

Business Finland

Abbvie

AstraZeneca

Biogen

Celgene

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA

Pfizer

Sanofi

Finnish Biobanks and their host organisations:

Auria Biobank

Hospital District of Southwest Finland

University of Turku

Satakunta Hospital District

Vaasa Hospital District

Helsinki Biobank

Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS)

University of Helsinki

Kymenlaakso Social and Health Services (Carea)

South Karelia Social and Health Care District (Eksote)

Finnish Hematology Registry and Clinical Biobank (FHRB)

Finnish Red Cross Blood Service

Finnish Association of Hematology

Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki

Biobank of Eastern Finland

Northern Savo Hospital District

University of Eastern Finland

South Savo Social and Health Care Authority

Joint Municipal Authority for North Karelia Social and Health services (Siun sote)

Eastern Savo Hospital District

Central Finland Biobank

Central Finland Health Care District

University of Jyväskylä

Northern Finland Biobank Borealis

Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District

University of Oulu

Joint Municipal Public Utility for Northern Finland central laboratory Nordlab

Central Ostrobothnia Joint Municipal Authority for Social and Health Care

Kainuu Social and Health Care Joint Municipal Authority

Lappi Hospital District

Länsi-Pohja Hospital District

Finnish Clinical Biobank Tampere

Pirkanmaa Hospital District

University of Tampere

Kanta-Häme Hospital District

South Ostrobothnia Hospital District

THL Biobank

The National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL)

Blood Service Biobank

Finnish Red Cross Blood Service

Media Contact
Professor Aarno Palotie
aarno.palotie@helsinki.fi
358-405-670-826

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