BGI on board with ‘Novo Nordisk Way’

Denmark’s Novo Nordisk and China’s BGI establish global collaboration framework to accelerate growth

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark—With diabetes striking 280 millionpeople across the world —a statistic that is expanding—Novo Nordisk, a worldleader in diabetes care, and Shenzhen, China-based BGI Europe, a genomicscompany, are collaborating to create a global framework to "accelerate theirgrowth, execute their global partnering strategy and support disease researchand development efforts."
Under the terms of an agreement announced March 2, BGI willcontribute its next-generation sequencing platforms and bioinformaticscapabilities, and Novo Nordisk will contribute its drug development expertise.
Novo Nordisk plans to leverage its portfolio of moderninsulin and delivery devices while developing new antidiabetic agents and a newgeneration of insulin to better address future needs for effective diabetescare, according to company statements.
Allan Ertmann Karlsen, Novo Nordisk's corporate vicepresident, tells ddn, "Our serviceframework agreement with BGI establishes the legal and operational boundarieswhen we are using BGI's services to generate data in our research projects. Themain goal of our collaboration is to investigate the transcriptional changesthat occur when normal tissue is being subjected to diabetic blood glucosechallenges. Long-term, we hope that those findings will enable us to discovernew biologics that can be used in our ongoing commitment to develop bettertreatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients."
BGI "is the world's largest provider of advanced sequencingtechnology and bioinformatics," Karlsen says. "We firmly believe that BGI is thebest partner for us to pursue our goal to understand the complexities of globaltranscriptional regulation in diabetes."
In February, BGI officially opened its European GenomeCenter in Denmark, where Novo Nordisk is headquartered. The global frameworkextends to Novo Nordisk's international production facilities in sevencountries and affiliates in 75 countries, as well as to BGI's affiliates,BGI-Hong Kong, BGI-Europe and BGI-Americas, among others.
BGI's "newly established state-of-the-art facilities in theheart of Copenhagen provides our scientists in diabetes biology withunparalleled access to direct discussion with BGI's scientists on bothtechnical and scientific issues with regards to our collaborations," Karlsensays.
Ning Li, director of BGI Europe, stated in a news releasethat the agreement "will provide an excellent platform for us and ourcollaborators, and we are looking forward to establishing more collaborationswith more partners across Europe and worldwide."
Both companies declined to discuss the specifics of itscollaborative enterprise or whether a new diabetes delivery system would bepursued.
BGI spokesperson Jia Liu tells ddn, "Details are not suitable for publication now."
Novo Nordisk is owned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, anonprofit institution "whose formal purpose is to provide a stable basis forits company's operations and to make contributions to scientific, humanitarianand social progress," the company has stated. Novo Nordisk is an organization"built on heritage and places huge emphasis on the 'Novo Nordisk Way,' avalue-based framework which defines the principles for how the company doesbusiness from vision to policies.
Novo Nordisk was the first international pharmaceuticalcompany to open an R&D Center in China in 1997. Currently, the facilityemploys approximately 100, with plans to expand to 200 by 2015, mainly in theDiabetes Research Unit. Novo Nordisk has approximately 32,700 employees in 75countries, and markets its products in more than 190 countries.
With China being the third biggest market in Novo Nordisk'sbusiness and the second largest insulin market, the company is committing up to$100 million to expand its Beijing Research & Development center (NNST).The expansion will enable the newly established diabetes research branch, namedDiabetes Research China, to perform drug discovery from idea generation to in-vivo pharmacology. In addition, thegrowth will make the R&D Center in Beijing the largest wholly owned foreignR&D operation in China. It will become Novo Nordisk's largest R&Dfacility outside of Denmark. 
With a strategy to diversify its portfolio, Novo Nordisk isalso looking at ways to combat diabetes in its pre stages, namely viainvestigation into obesity, the company stated. The company is also conductingresearch in the therapy areas of inflammation and growth hormone therapy.
Novo Nordisk has made strides in its sales growth since2010. Although the Danish company's insulin sales growth have slowed, sales ofNovo Nordisk's new injectable diabetes drug, Victoza, more than tripled to $440million, in the first six months of 2011, compared with a year earlier.
Novo Nordisk is pinning some of its growth hopes on a newinsulin drug called degludec, which it submitted to regulators including theU.S. Food and Drug Administration last year. The product is designed to controlblood-sugar levels over a longer period of time than other insulins do, and ifdegludec is approved for sale, it will face tough competition from productsmade by Sanofi and Eli Lilly & Co.
About 80 percent of Novo Nordisk's sales come from diabetestreatments, followed by growth hormone, hormone-replacement therapy and Novo 7,a product designed to help blood clots and to prevent fatal bleeding in certainhemophilia patients.
BGI was founded in 1999 with the mission of being a premierscientific partner to the global research community. BGI has generated morethan 170 publications in top-tier journals such as Nature and Science. Theseaccomplishments include sequencing 1 percent of the human genome for theInternational Human Genome Project, contributing 10 percent to theInternational Human HapMap Project, carrying out research to combat SARS and E. coli, playing a key role in theSino-British Chicken Genome Project and completing the sequence of the ricegenome, the silkworm genome, the first Asian diploid genome, the potato genome,and most recently, 1,000 genomes and the human gut metagenome.

BGI, Agilentcollaborate on next-generation super array
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—BGI and Agilent Technologies Inc.announced at the end of February a collaborative effort to developmethodologies designated for next-generation, genome-wide association studies.The methodologies will assist scientists pursuing disease and drug research.
The goal of the collaboration is to create a next-generationsuper-exome using Agilent's SureSelect technology. The super-exome incorporatessequence regions believed to be more informative for specific humanpopulations.
"BGI aims to develop research collaborations and providesupport to scientists all over the world," says Hui Jiang, associate directorof the Science and Technology department at BGI, the largest genome-sequencingcenter in Asia. "Together with Agilent's expertise, we can create more preciseand accurate technology that can be deployed in large-scale research to betterunderstand complex diseases, which may have differences between ethnicities." 
As part of the collaboration, BGI will use Agilent'scomprehensive portfolio of solutions for genomics research and next-generationsequencing tools, including the SureSelect target-enrichment system and 2100bioanalyzers. Additionally, Agilent will grant BGI early access to newlydeveloped tools for the sequencing space.
"Agilent has a comprehensive portfolio of market-leadingsolutions for genomics research," says Robert Schueren, vice president andgeneral manager of Agilent's genomics business. "This partnership with BGI willnot only add to this portfolio, but also further Agilent's mission to buildproducts that enable life-science discoveries and develop solutions that improvethe human condition."

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