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$32M Danish Research Initiative Targets Cancer

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A new research center in Denmark has been established to create a large-scale platform to sequence the Danish genome in hopes of treating cancer.

The Danish Platform for Large-scale Sequencing and Bioinformatics was created with DKK170 million ($32 million) with the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation contributing about DKK86 million and a consortia of Danish universities and commercial partners providing DKK84 million.

Academic members of the consortia are the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark, Aarhus University, and Aalborg University. The commercial members are Bavarian Nordic, BGI Europe, and Genomic Expression.

BGI Europe is providing DKK60 million to the creation of the center, according to the University of Copenhagen.

The first goal of the center will be to create vaccines against cancer. In order to do so, a project led by Eske Willerslev a professor at the University of Copenhagen, will be directed at identifying previously unknown cancer-causing pathogens.

"The pathogen project is a unique and exciting opportunity to break ground in cancer research by using the basic research that my team has done," Willerslev said in a statement from his school.

While some viruses are known to be associated with certain cancers, such as cervical cancer, the role of other pathogens in cancer remain a mystery, although an estimated 15 percent of all cancer cases are attributed to pathogens, vaccine firm Bavarian Nordic said.

The researchers will use sequencing technology to search for unknown fragments of DNA, which could lead to the identification of new cancer-related pathogens, the company said, adding that the work will focus on major cancers such as breast, prostate, and colon cancer, and leukemia.

Bavarian Nordic said that it will have the exclusive rights to commercialize any vaccines resulting from the project.

A second research initiative aims to create a catalogue of genetic variations in the Danish population. The genome atlas will serve as a foundation for research into the hereditary causes of diseases and how they can be prevented, the University of Copenhagen said. The project will be led by Karsten Kristensen, a professor at the school.

"The information yielded by the pan-genome will open the door to more ambitious projects that can use the one-of-a-kind database and blood bank to gain valuable insight into Danish DNA and prepare the ground for development of individual treatments and prevention strategies," Kristensen said.

Genomic Expression is the diagnostic partner in the project. The New York City-based company said in a statement that it will contribute its next-generation sequencing technology to the effort. The technology sorts out molecules for detection either by next-gen sequencing or by the company's digital array technology, it said.

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