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Regeneron Launches 100K-Patient Genomics Study with Geisinger, Forms New Genetics Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has teamed with Geisinger Health System of Pennsylvania in a project that will use genomic analysis to study 100,000 patients with the aim of improving drug development and patient care capabilities, the partners said on Monday.

Regeneron will conduct its end of the partnership out of a new subsidiary, the Regeneron Genetics Center, located in Tarrytown, NY.

The drugmaker said the initiative will include a collaboration with the National Human Genome Research Institute, and that the RGC will seek out relationships with other academic, government, and integrated medical systems.

Under an initial five-year collaboration, Geisinger will collect samples from more than 100,000 consented patient volunteers, while Regeneron's RGC will conduct sequencing and genotyping with the goal of using the large number of patients and their medical records to identify and validate associations between genes and human diseases.

The launch of the RGC and the Geisinger partnership together mark a massive push into genomics for a US drug developer — one that nearly rivals the scope and scale of government-level projects in the US in Europe. This was enabled by the plummeting cost of genome sequencing, the partners said.

"Regeneron has always believed in the power of genetics to help shape our understanding of disease and to guide development of novel therapeutics. However, there have been major limitations that have prevented optimal utilization of human genetics at a large scale," George Yancopoulos, chief scientific officer of Regeneron, said in a statement. "We believe that we can now address these limitations, and that now is the time to increase our investment in human genetics."

Regeneron plans to use its VelociGene and VelocImmune technologies to validate disease-gene associations and to develop novel therapeutics for genetically defined disease targets, added Andrew Murphy, Regeneron's senior VP of research.

Regeneron has recruited John Overton, former associate director of the Yale Center for Genome Analysis, to lead the RGC's sequencing projects, and Jeffrey Reid, previously an assistant professor at the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine, to lead the center's informatics group. Aris Baras, director of Regeneron's research and development initiatives, will serve as deputy head of the RGC. The company is currently recruiting for a range of specialized positions, including those focused on analytical and translational genetics.

"Bringing large-scale human genome sequencing together with Regeneron's world-class mouse genetics program has potential to identify validated targets for drug discovery and make clinically relevant genetic discoveries that, through our collaborations, can speed up the translation from science to medicine and accelerate the pace of the genomic medicine revolution," Reid said.

Geisinger's Executive VP and CSO David Ledbetter said the collaboration could lead to improved and more individualized patient care.

“We expect that many of our patients will directly benefit from their participation in this research because of Geisinger’s ability to validate and return clinically actionable results to them, and all of our patients will benefit from the knowledge we gain in how to help set the standard for genomically informed care," Ledbetter said.

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