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Slim Foundation Pumps $74M into Broad, Mexico Genomics Partnership

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Carlos Slim Foundation has pledged $74 million to fund the second phase of a genomics-focused collaboration between the Broad Institute, Mexico's National Institute of Genomic Medicine, and the Carlos Slim Health Institute, Broad said today.

The Slim Initiative for Genomic Medicine in the America's (SIGMA), which launched in 2010 with an initial $65 million investment from the Slim Foundation, aims to apply genomic medicine to address diseases that impact Latin America and the world.

The program's two core goals are to promote wider access to genomic medicine in Latin America by supporting programs that focus on health issues that are particularly relevant to these nations, and boosting Mexico's genomics capabilities by training researchers and developing new diagnostics and therapeutics in Mexico.

The second phase of the effort (SIGMA 2), will involve coordination with scientists at Mexican institutions, such as the National Autonomous University and the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition, and will be headed by the Carlos Slim Center for Health Research at the Broad Institute.

In the first SIGMA phase, the partners worked together to identify genes underlying cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease, and they yielded results in each of these core areas. They identified a common genetic variant that predisposes Latin American populations to type 2 diabetes that is absent in Europeans and was previously overlooked, discovered new genetic drivers of breast cancer, lymphoma, and other cancers, and identified a gene for medullary cystic kidney disease (MCKD).

In SIGMA 2, the partners will seek to translate these discoveries into clinical medicine. They plan to develop diagnostic tools for breast cancer and diabetes, complete their genetic analyses of these diseases, develop therapeutic roadmaps to guide the development of new treatments, and launch "a full-scale effort" to target the MCKD1 gene, Broad said.

The collaborators also plan to continue to try to ramp up scientific capabilities in both the US and Mexico. In the first phase, the project involved scientists at 125 institutions, and now the partners plan to increase its collaborative scope even more.

"Most genomic research has focused on European or European-derived populations. It's like doing science with one eye closed. There are many discoveries that can only be made by studying non-European populations," Broad Institute President and Director Eric Lander said in a statement. "In addition to the scientific importance of studies in Latin America, it is essential that the benefits of the genomic revolution be accessible to people throughout the Americas and the world."

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