Illumina signs biobank deals with four institutions

Prominent role of arrays in company’s overall portfolio recently has focused it more on biobank segment

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SAN DIEGO—Illumina has announced four separate biobanking deals that it hopes will highlight the potential of its array technologies. The deals involve the use of Illumina technologies to geneotype large sample collections at Vanderbilt University, University of Colorado Denver, Partners HealthCare and Montreal Heart Institute. The overarching aim of each biobanking program is to advance personalized medicine and advance medical discoveries by combining genomic information with electronic medical records and clinical information.
“These samples and programs are leveraging rich, historical patient information, giving researchers new insights into the relationships between phenotype—physical or outwardly manifested traits—and genotype, underlying genetic composition,” Robert Brainin, vice president of life-sciences development at Illumina, tells DDNews. “These correlations can lead to more precise characterization of complex diseases and better treatment.”
Brainin says that Illumina has become increasingly focused on the biobank segment during the past two years due to the prominent role of arrays in the company’s overall portfolio. “We’ve invested quite a bit of time in education and awareness to show its value, and these biobanking deals represent the success of that investment,” he explains. “These institutions see the value of adopting a multi-omics approach to personalized medicine with arrays.”
The biobanking deals will involve several Illumina technologies, including its Infinium Expanded Multi-Ethnic Genotyping Array and Infinium HumanMethylation 450K Array, as well as its sequencing systems. These technologies will be used to analyze an initial 200,000 samples to gain insight into the potential underlying genetic factors contributing to diseases including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder and Crohn’s disease.
“Illumina arrays are designed to provide the highest genomic coverage across multiple population groups, such as the MultiEthnic Array which enables identification of genetic associations with common and rare traits, providing insight across diverse populations to epidemiologists, healthcare researchers, population geneticists and genomic researchers,” says Brainin.
Genotyping for the biobanks at Partners HealthCare Biobank, Montreal Heart Institute and Vanderbilt University has already begun. The University of Colorado Denver is expected to begin genotyping by the end of March.
The biobanking program at Vanderbilt University will be led by Genetics Institute and Division of Genetic Medicine Director Nancy Cox as a trans-institution genetic effort to bring together the university’s expertise in DNA biobanking, biomedical informatics and pharmacogenomics data. The genetic analysis of data from 100,000 samples will provide valuable insights to genetic factors in human disease with the goal of improving health care.
“Our BioVU biobank is at the core of a vision that will combine genome variation, biomarker data, patient electronic medical record information and pharmacogenomic data to advance personalized medicine,” said Cox in a public statement.
The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has launched a new personalized medicine initiative that is spearheading its biobanking program with the aim of integrating information from electronic medical records data with molecular data, genetic mapping and basic biology. The new program, led by Kathleen Barnes, head of the Division of Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine, will initially genotype 30,000 samples on the Illumina MEGA EX BeadChip with analysis of 2,000 samples on the new DNA Methylation EPIC chip. After successfully completing a pilot study, the program is expected to analyze hundreds of thousands of samples per year over the following years.
The Partners HealthCare Biobank is part of Partners HealthCare Personalized Medicine, a center devoted to enhancing the adoption of genomic technologies to improve patient care across the Partners Health System, including Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The biobank is a resource that provides access to high-quality samples to help foster research, to further understanding of the causes of common diseases and to advance the practice of personalized medicine. Partners HealthCare is currently engaged in analyzing 25,000 samples using Illumina technology to perform RNA sequencing, DNA methylation array and multi-ethnic genotyping (MEGA) arrays.
The Montreal Heart Institute will use Illumina’s MEGA array to genotype over 50,000 samples from their biobank as part of an overall effort to identify genetic predictors of drug response in cardiometabolic diseases. A subset of these samples will be used in a longitudinal cohort study as the final clinical validation study. Marie-Pierre Dube, director of the institute’s Beaulieu Saucier Pharmacogenomics Centre, says Illumina’s array technologies are particularly well suited to provide good genome-wide coverage for a number of ethnic populations.

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