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TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — A drug maker has started a program to find the genetic determinants of human disease and speed the discovery and development of new drugs. The program includes a five-year project that it said would be one of the largest of its kind in terms of the number of patients involved.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Geisinger Health System, which serves about 3 million patients, have recruited more than 100,000 patient volunteers for the project, in which Geisinger will collect samples from them and Regeneron will perform sequencing and genotyping to generate genomic data. The goal of the project is to improve patient care and help drug discovery and development.
"Genetics has been at the core of our research efforts at Regeneron since its early days," Regeneron president and chief scientific officer George Yancopoulos said. "In fact, our first [Food and Drug Administration-approved] therapy treats a rare genetic disorder, and the target of one of our product candidates in late-stage development that acts to lower LDL cholesterol was identified using human genetics. With the tremendous recent advances in DNA sequencing, we believe that now is the time to increase our commitment to and invest in human genetics research."
Regeneron will use its research and functional biology capabilities to find associations between genes and disease, while Geisinger will collect samples using its MyCode repository and electronic medical records.
The collaboration between the two companies is part of a larger human genetics initiative through Regeneron's subsidiary, the Regeneron Genetics Center, which also has partnerships in place with the National Institutes of Health's National Human Genome Research Institute, and plans are in place to develop relationships with other academic, government and medical systems.
"Regeneron has always believed in the power of genetics to help shape our understanding of disease and to guide development of novel therapeutics," Yancopoulos said. "However, there have been major limitations that have prevented optimal utilization of human genetics at a large scale. We believe that we can now address these limitations and that now is the time to increase our investment in human genetics."