UCLA Health, Regeneron Genetics Center initiate research collaboration

The partners will conduct whole-exome sequencing on 150,000 patients in a partnership they say will advance personalized medicine

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UCLA Health, Regeneron Genetics Center initiate research collaboration

LOS ANGELES—A collaborative research agreement is underway between UCLA Health and the Regeneron Genetics Center (RGC) to provide whole-exome sequencing for 150,000 UCLA Health patients. The UCLA Institute for Precision Health (IPH) will lead the initiative, which UCLA Health says “is set to become one of the largest and most comprehensive in the nation.”

The collaboration builds on genotyping work already underway with the UCLA ATLAS Community Health Initiative—a large collection of diverse patient blood, saliva and tissue samples being analyzed to help UCLA researchers and clinicians develop and deliver the best care possible. Genotyping is targeted to a specific region of the DNA and looks for a predefined set of variants, but whole-exome sequencing analyzes thousands of protein-coding genes and can provide information on many more potential mutations.

"All patients who participate in this research will be given the opportunity to opt in or out of having actionable results—those that could directly impact their clinical care—returned to them. All patient information and specimens used in the research are 'de-identified' to protect patient privacy and confidentiality. Actionable results, which are verified by a UCLA CLIA-certified laboratory, are only returned to those patients who specifically say they want them," said Dr. Daniel Geschwind, Gordon and Virginia MacDonald distinguished professor, senior associate dean and associate vice chancellor of Precision Health.

He noted that they expect 2 to 3 percent of participants to have results with immediate clinical implications, and suggested that sequencing results could become pivotal in predicting disease risk and guiding future testing and patient care.

"Including diverse populations is critical to understanding genetic variability across different populations and developing new treatments that precisely target diseases. Our region's population is a microcosm of the world, which makes UCLA Health an ideal setting for this project with Regeneron," added Dr. John Mazziotta, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and CEO of UCLA Health.

The RGC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Regeneron and has established one of the world's largest genetics databases, pairing the sequenced exomes and de-identified electronic health records of more than 1 million people thanks to collaborations with nearly 100 global healthcare and academic institutions.

"The Regeneron Genetics Center was established to translate the power and promise of genetics research into actionable insights that lead to improved patient care and important new medicines," Dr. Aris Baras, senior vice president and head of the Regeneron Genetics Center, commented in a press release. "The UCLA Health collaboration helps to further deepen and diversify our dataset of exomes from over 1 million de-identified volunteers. Genetic data that better represents the entirety of the human population will lead to better-informed treatment options for all people, which is why we continue to expand this unique drug discovery and development tool, while our collaborators utilize verified information in patients' daily care."

"UCLA Health is recognized throughout the state and nation for its leadership in innovation and high-quality patient care. This collaborative effort with the Regeneron Genetics Center underscores those strengths as we move into this new, exciting chapter of personalized, targeted medical care," remarked Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health, CEO of UCLA Hospital System and associate vice chancellor of Health Sciences.

Photo credit: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

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