Major 15-year genomics research alliance formed in Ireland

9 Jan 2017

Image: sdecoret/Shutterstock

AbbVie, Genomics Medicine Ireland and WuXi NextCODE have joined forces for a 15-year research partnership, investigating therapies for chronic diseases.

Genomics, a single strand of the genetics field, is an area of science enjoying a surge of activity as the digital age helps to revolutionise the act of research. As in the general wider community, Ireland itself is the home of significant interest.

So much so that a trio of parties – biopharma giant AbbVie, life sciences start-up Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI) and WuXi NextCODE, the global contract genomics organisation – recently decided to team up.

The 15-year collaboration will focus on major chronic diseases, key to the health of both constituents in Ireland as well as the wider world.

AbbVie will use the research database developed by GMI to identify new molecular approaches for therapeutic drug discovery and development as well as to develop companion diagnostics.

“Genomics is transforming the way we understand some of the world’s most devastating diseases and enabling the discovery of new approaches that have the potential to deliver much greater benefit to patients,” said AbbVie’s Jim Sullivan.

“This alliance is an important part of our research strategy and complements our significant footprint here in Ireland.”

Ireland is a hub of activity for genomics of late, thanks in part to the activities of Prof Daniel Bradley from Trinity College Dublin, who helped sequence the genome of hundreds of long-dead gladiators from the UK.

“A few years ago, we found the best bone to preserve human DNA was in the ear,” he told me last year, with other leading-edge scientists also realising this holy grail of discovery.

Indeed, the ear is such a hotbed of scientific gold, that remains in the arid caves of Africa have even proven suitable for genomic sequencing in the past.

The announcement of AbbVie’s alliance is more to do with the here and now, with a planned mass sequencing of 45,000 genomes from volunteer participants across the country aimed at learning more about issues in oncology, neuroscience and immunology.

Daniel Crowley, acting CEO of GMI, commented: “This partnership validates the vision that created Genomics Medicine Ireland.

“With AbbVie and WuXi NextCODE, we will leverage our deep expertise in life sciences and the unique characteristics of the Irish population to discover critical insights into disease, disease progression, and therapeutic response.

“The resulting therapies to cure and prevent these diseases will benefit patients both here in Ireland and around the world.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic