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US Bioscience Leaders Help Luxembourg Advance Personalized Medicine Research

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The government of Luxembourg has tapped three prominent US biomedical science organizations to accelerate the country's pace of innovation in the biosciences by developing a biobank, conducting two major projects to advance personalized medicine, and studying the effectiveness of early-detection lung cancer diagnostics.
 
Earlier this month, the government of Luxembourg announced that in order to advance biosciences innovations in the country, it had solicited the help of the Partnership for Personalized Medicine led by Lee Hartwell; the Institute for Systems Biology led by Leroy Hood; and Arizona's Translational Genomics Research Institute led by Jeffrey Trent.
 
TGen will guide Luxembourg's biobanking effort, the ISB will help create the Center for Systems Biology Luxembourg, while PPM will take the lead on the lung cancer diagnostic project.
 
The Luxembourg government is investing $200 million in the initiative with the hopes of advancing personalized medicine for its own people and spurring international collaborations to advance molecular medicine.
 
Furthermore, some participants believe that the Luxembourg effort could serve as a model for other governments looking to reduce research costs and gain access to other researchers’ data.
 
“There is hope that when successful, other governments will look at what we’ve done and apply the same principles to health issues confronting their population,” Hartwell told Pharmacogenomics Reporter last week.
 
“While we’ve had inquiry, confidentiality agreements require that we not discuss the nature or substance of any talks that have taken place,” he said.
 
Banking Tissues
 

“[I]t is hoped that IP will be developed to support a diagnostic and that the PPM will take the lead on commercialization of this technology with relevant industry partners and that Luxembourg will share in all royalties from IP.”

TGen will help with the development of the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg, which aims to be a “next-generation” repository that, in addition to the uniform collection, storage, and redistribution of tissue samples, will also molecularly characterize biospecimens and link them to detailed clinical information.
 
This, “over time ... will lead to amassing an extensive database of medically relevant information,” the collaborators said in a statement announcing the effort.
 
Although TGen did not respond to questions regarding the collaboration, the statement detailing the collaboration notes that TGen’s “principal role working with Luxembourg scientists and physicians, will be to jointly develop and implement the next generation of molecular medicine through the development of the information architecture and technology implementation.”
 
In establishing the IBBL, which will be accessible to European and international researchers, the government of Luxembourg is hoping to spur collaborations to advance molecular medicine among the country's researchers, as well as among the international research community.
 
Establishing CSBL
 
The ISB, charged with creating the Center for Systems Biology Luxembourg, will guide the center on two personalized medicine research projects.
 
The first project will create a personalized human genome-sequencing map from at least 100 subjects and develop new methods for assessing genetic variations in various diseases. The second project will develop integrated systems of proteomics, RNA, and cell analysis methodology and tools. This project will be based on ISB's discovery of protein blood "fingerprints" and single-cell characteristics that can characterize the physiological state of 50 major organs in the human body
 
ISB will apply its systems biology approach to mice to determine how to interrogate human DNA, and help develop new computational and mathematical tools to facilitate large-scale genome analyses.
 
“The research promises to lead to powerful early diagnostic approaches to not only treat but also predict disease and the ability to monitor the effects of existing drugs, including both effective responses or adverse reactions,” the partners said in a statement.
 
Lung Cancer Project
 
In leading the Luxembourg Project Lung Cancer, the PPM’s main aim will be to develop protein-based diagnostics for this specific disease, as well as demonstrate the pharmacoeconomic benefits of early detection and intervention. The project will focus on the selection and validation of biomarkers in lung cancer that will allow doctors to manage the disease better from early detection through therapeutic follow-up.
 
The PPM is a US-based healthcare research initiative that brings together two Arizona-based philanthropic organizations – the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust and the Flinn Foundation – with researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. It plans to partner with a host of other research institutions and initiatives in the US and beyond for this lung cancer project.
 
According to PPM’s Hartwell, the samples for the lung cancer project will come from multiple sources, including the biobanking initiative as well as other collaborating organizations.
 
Since the details of the lung cancer project are still being fleshed out, Hartwell noted that it would be difficult to lay out a commercialization plan for any potential diagnostic developed out of the project, without knowledge of the study outcomes, related IP, and partner institutions.
 
“However, it is hoped that IP will be developed to support a diagnostic and that the PPM will take the lead on commercialization of this technology with relevant industry partners and that Luxembourg will share in all royalties from IP,” he said.
 
According to the European Commission, cancers of the respiratory tract, which includes the lungs, bronchi, trachea, and larynx, account for one death in 20 in the EU.
 
“Although Luxembourg residents are not more or less disposed to get lung cancer, it is a major health burden for this country,” Hartwell said.
 
Since lung cancer is typically diagnosed in stage 4 when the disease has advanced, early detection of the disease gives patients a better chance of survival and could potentially reduce healthcare costs, he added.

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