CAMBRIDGE, Mass. & LONDON—The Genomics England Genomics Expert Network for Enterprises (GENE) Consortium will be two years old this March, having been established in 2015 as the 100,000 Genomes Project’s industry partnership. And just in time for that birthday, it is adding another industry partner to its ranks: Intellia Therapeutics.
Intellia joins 12 other companies in a precompetitive trial, including AbbVie, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Berg Health, Biogen, Dimension Therapeutics, GlaxoSmithKline, Helomics, NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Roche, Takeda and UCB. The companies are working together to pinpoint the most secure and effective method of bringing industry expertise to the project, and members are granted controlled access to aggregated, de-identified genome and health data of participants.
Intellia brings with it significant genomic experience, and is in fact the first dedicated genome-editing company to join the project. The company is developing proprietary, potentially curative therapeutics using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, an approach it believes could transform treatment by permanently editing disease-associated genes.
“Access to genomics information is critical as Intellia looks to better understand the basis of disease and to develop potential genome-editing treatments,” remarked Dr. Nessan Bermingham, CEO and founder of Intellia. “We look forward to actively participating in the GENE Consortium, as Genomics England is enabling scientific exploration and key medical insights that ultimately will benefit patients.”
The focus of the 100,000 Genomes Project is on patients with rare diseases and their families, as well as patients with common cancers. The initiative will sequence 100,000 genomes from roughly 70,000 individuals and aim to develop “a new genomic medicine service for the NHS” and enable new medical research, per the Genomics England website. According to the website, the consortium has sequenced 19,072 whole genomes as of Feb. 6.
Genomics England is owned by the Department of Health, and has four main goals: “to being benefit to patients, to create an ethical and transparent program based on consent, to enable new scientific discovery and medical insights [and] to kickstart the development of a UK genomics industry.”
“The potential for genomics to transform healthcare, from better diagnoses to new drugs and treatments, is extraordinary,” Sir John Chisholm, executive chairman of Genomics England, said in a press release. “We are delighted to welcome Intellia Therapeutics to our GENE Consortium. The UK is a global leader in population sequencing, and it’s important for the future of medicine that we continue to attract and collaborate with the most innovative emerging technologies in this space.”
In other recent news for the initiative, Genomics England announced at the end of January that it had chosen QIAGEN’s HGMD Human Gene Mutation Database to support the 100,000 Genomes Project. HGMD is a leading content knowledge base for interpreting genomic data in rare and hereditary diseases. Specifically, the Project will be leveraging QIAGEN’s HGMD Online Professional solution to support scientists, clinicians and researchers in 13 NHS Genomic Medicine Centers for clinical reporting and interpretation.
“We are delighted to work with QIAGEN’s bioinformatics solutions as a comprehensive resource for manually curated analysis and interpretation content. High-quality interpretation of genomic data in the 100,000 Genomes Project will provide deeper insights into rare inherited diseases, and ultimately lead to more diagnoses and tailored treatments for patients,” Dr. Augusto Rendon, director of Bioinformatics for Genomics England, said of the news.
Additionally, Chisholm reported on Feb. 20 in an update that “All 13 NHS Genomic Medicine Centers are recruiting rare disease and cancer patients to the project, and initiatives in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have agreed to join us in this world-leading program. Counting the genomes from the (NIHR) BioResource – BRIDGE Studies (which started before Genomics England but whose genomes were always planned to be part of our dataset), we are delighted to have sequenced over 26,000 whole genomes, with over 19,000 in our datacenter.”
Chisholm added that they expect to pass the 100,000 milestone sometime in 2018.