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Illumina, AstraZeneca Partner on AI-Based Drug Target Discovery

NEW YORK – Illumina said on Tuesday that it has entered into a strategic research collaboration with AstraZeneca on drug target discovery.

Under the terms of the agreement, the firms will join forces on artificial intelligence-based genome interpretation and genomic analysis and evaluate whether a combined framework can increase the yield of and confidence in target discovery.

AstraZeneca's Center for Genomics Research will use the combined framework to analyze large, multiomic datasets in its digital biobank.

Financial and other details of the collaboration were not disclosed. Should the project succeed, the companies will "assess opportunities for a long-term partnership," an Illumina spokesperson said in an email.

"Illumina and AstraZeneca are uniquely positioned to improve the efficiency of pharma pipelines by leveraging industry-leading abilities to identify genetic variants that contribute to human disease," Joydeep Goswami, Illumina's chief strategy and corporate development officer and interim CFO, said in a statement. "By identifying genes that show evidence of human disease causality, the combined framework has the potential to prioritize drug candidates with increased likelihood of approval."

The collaboration builds on several previous partnerships between the San Diego-based next-generation sequencing firm and the UK-based pharma giant. In 2014, Illumina partnered with AstraZeneca, Janssen Biotech, and Sanofi to develop an NGS-based oncology test. Also, in June of this year, Illumina's multi-cancer early detection testing subsidiary Grail inked a partnership with AstraZeneca to develop a companion diagnostic for cancer treatments and patient recruitment.

The new collaboration will feature software tools from both firms, such as Illumina's PrimateAI and SpliceAI and AstraZeneca's analysis framework for rare variant discovery and the firm's JARVIS and in silico predictors, including for missense tolerance ratio.