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Nashville Biosciences created to leverage wealth of data

Apr. 5, 2018, 11:27 AM

Officials with Vanderbilt University Medical Center announced the creation of a wholly owned subsidiary, Nashville Biosciences, to harness the power of its extensive genomic and bioinformatics resources for drug and diagnostics discovery and development.

Through Nashville Biosciences, pharmaceutical and other life science companies will be able to leverage the wealth of data contained within the Medical Center’s genomics and health information technology resources, to advance their own discovery and development programs, while helping to support institutional research efforts.

“Partnering with the pharmaceutical and broader life sciences industry through Nashville Biosciences will enable VUMC to expand and support its mission of advancing translational and precision medicine,” said Leeland Ekstrom, PhD, chief operating officer of Nashville Biosciences.

“The creation of Nashville Biosciences will dramatically accelerate our ability to work with pharmaceutical and other partners, to advance human health by accelerating rational drug and diagnostics development and use,” added Dan Roden, MD, VUMC’s Senior Vice President for Personalized Medicine.

Nashville Biosciences will serve as a commercial interface between outside companies and the formidable research resources housed in VUMC, including the comprehensive databank BioVU, which contains more than 250,000 DNA samples collected over the last decade, coupled with 2.8 million de-identified patient records.

Among the capabilities that will distinguish the company are analytical methods developed for “mining” DNA datasets.

For example, researchers led by Josh Denny, MD, MS, vice president of Personalized Medicine, have pioneered techniques such as PheWAS that can link specific genetic mutations to their key clinical characteristics (known as disease phenotypes).

Among academic medical centers, VUMC is widely recognized as a leader in the application of genomics and bioinformatics to drug development, an effort that is transforming the pharmaceutical industry, Ekstrom said.

Prior to the official launch of Nashville Biosciences, VUMC has been working with several leading pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies to leverage these resources, including:

  • Celgene Corp., a biopharmaceutical company based in Summit, New Jersey
  • Pfizer Inc., a biopharmaceutical company based in New York, New York
  • Goldfinch Bio Inc., a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, focused on precision medicines for patients with kidney diseases
  • Population Bio Inc., a biotechnology company based in Melville, New York

These projects, each of which aims to discover new treatments for patients in disease areas of interest for each partner, as well as several other ongoing efforts will transition to the new company in the coming weeks.

“We’ve only just started to scratch the surface of what is possible with genomics and informatics resources that can be coalesced for research in a comprehensive academic medical center,” said Gordon Bernard, MD, Executive Vice President for Research for VUMC.

“Partnering with Nashville Biosciences will greatly expand the national and global reach of these resources,” Bernard said.

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