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Alliance for Genomic Discovery Adds Major Biopharma Partners to Help Fund WGS-Based Biobank

NEW YORK – Illumina said on Tuesday that it has added pharma giants AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, and Merck as members of the Alliance for Genomic Discovery, a biobanking and genomic data initiative it launched with Nashville Biosciences last year.

Under the terms of the deal, the pharma partners will co-fund the alliance's project to sequence the genomes of 250,000 samples from Vanderbilt University Medical Center — which owns Nashville Biosciences — and will have access to the resulting data for use in drug discovery and therapeutic development. 

Partners will have access to the data, taken from de-identified samples in VUMC's BioVU biobank, and associated structured data from VUMC's electronic medical records over the past 15 years.

"This combo of phenotypic and genotypic data is a differentiator from existing population sequencing datasets," an Illumina spokesperson said in an email.

The funding will enable DeCode Genetics, an Amgen subsidiary, to sequence the remaining samples for the alliance. In January, DeCode said it would sequence 35,000 samples, primarily from individuals of African ancestry.

Financial details regarding the funding provided by the new partners were not disclosed.

"We are thrilled to welcome these esteemed companies as the founding cohort in the Alliance for Genomic Discovery," Joydeep Goswami, Illumina's CFO and chief strategy and corporate development officer, said in a statement. "Together, we aim to advance genomics and multiomics-based methods for finding therapeutic targets that are more actionable in the treatment and curing of diseases, while also improving the speed, probability of success, and efficiency of the discovery and development process."