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VU, Celgene announce research partnership

Jul. 10, 2014, 9:25 AM

Vanderbilt University has formed a scientific partnership with Celgene Corporation to investigate new uses for the company’s anti-inflammatory drugs that are already on the market.

This partnership will make use of Vanderbilt’s DNA database, BioVU, and leverages its faculty expertise in informatics and data mining. A key goal is to identify potential new patient populations that may benefit from drugs previously approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Vanderbilt’s BioVU DNA databank now contains more than 150,000 unique genetic samples. (photo by Anne Rayner)

“We are eager to explore ways real world data can be used to support the process by which investigators and drug developers expand the use of existing drugs to treat new diseases,” said Gordon Bernard, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Research. “And we are hopeful that our methods could help accelerate the path to identifying new indications for new or existing drugs.” Bernard said.

The partnership with Celgene highlights Vanderbilt’s commitment to accelerating the translation of academic discoveries into tangible health benefits, including the development of new and better medications for patients in need, such as patients with autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases can occur when a person’s immune system is not able to tell the difference between healthy body tissue and foreign invaders (called antigens) and then mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.

“These diseases can be devastating and debilitating conditions,” says Dan Roden, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Personalized Medicine and scientific director of BioVU. “New therapeutic options for patients are needed in this area and new partnerships can help fuel these innovations.”

This partnership leverages BioVU, a large DNA repository, with more than 180,000 samples linked to de-identified health information. DNA is extracted from leftover blood samples collected from Vanderbilt patients with their permission and stored in a “de-identified” way, so that the patients’ identity cannot be determined.

This partnership reflects a novel public-private collaboration designed to help fuel the development of medications and get them into the hands of patients more quickly.

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