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Illumina, Nashville Biosciences Ink WGS Agreement With Amgen for African American Cohort

NEW YORK – Illumina and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VNMC) subsidiary Nashville Biosciences said on Monday that they have signed an agreement with biopharmaceutical firm Amgen to sequence the genomes of approximately 35,000 DNA samples, primarily from African Americans.

As part of the agreement, DeCode Genetics, a subsidiary of Amgen, will perform whole-genome sequencing on the samples using Illumina platforms and will upload the data to the Illumina Connected Analytics platform.

According to Illumina, African Americans "are currently underrepresented in research for the clinical applications of genomics, including drug target discovery." This is the first project of the Alliance for Genomic Discovery (AGD), a multi-year agreement between Illumina and Nashville Biosciences to accelerate therapeutic development through large-scale genomics.

Launched in 2022, AGD aims to conduct whole-genome sequencing, in collaboration with biopharmaceutical companies, for at least 250,000 de-identified human DNA samples from VUMC's BioVU biobank over a two-and-a-half-year period. Samples in BioVU were extracted from blood collected during routine clinical testing from patients who provided consent for research use, and they are linked to "extensive de-identified clinical data derived from VUMC's electronic medical records," Illumina said.

"The initial cohort will be among the largest sequencing efforts involving African Americans to date," Nashville Biosciences CEO Leeland Ekstrom said in a statement. "Once complete, this dataset will provide a wealth of new information about the human genome and accelerate the study of disease in — and discovery of new therapeutics for — populations less well represented in prior large-scale sequencing efforts."