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Nashville Biosciences and Illumina announce agreement to establish preeminent clinico-genomic resource for life sciences research & development

Jan. 10, 2022, 3:25 PM

 

by Bill Snyder

Today, Nashville Biosciences, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, announced an agreement with Illumina, a leading genomic technology company, to realize the full potential of VUMC’s DNA databank, BioVU.

The agreement is a continuation of Vanderbilt’s long-term effort around BioVU and will accelerate genomic sequencing, resulting in new discoveries to advance new methods for diagnosing, preventing and treating an array of human diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, Nashville Biosciences and Illumina will seek to establish an alliance with multiple pharmaceutical industry partners to perform whole genome sequencing on approximately 250,000 de-identified DNA samples collected under an Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved process over the past 15 years.

The resulting library of de-identified health and genomic data, collected from patients diverse in gender, race, age and clinical conditions, will be available to industry partners and researchers at Vanderbilt to discover and advance new methods for diagnosing and treating an array of human diseases.

“Through BioVU and other initiatives by talented individuals from across our campus, Vanderbilt holds a special place at the forefront of personalized medicine. This agreement with Illumina is a next step, allowing us to utilize their global presence and technology to join with industry partners, realizing our vision to achieve the full promise of clinical and genomic data we have developed,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“Nashville Biosciences’ enriched biobank data, coupled with Illumina’s extensive genomics and bioinformatics expertise will enable scientists and researchers to generate new insights into disease and develop new medicines,” said Joydeep Goswami, Chief Strategy and Corporate Development Officer of Illumina. “Together, we will be able to identify potential targets that could lower costs, improve development timelines, and make therapies more effective for patients.”

BioVU is the most comprehensive collection of human DNA and other biological materials stored at a single site. DNA samples are extracted from discarded blood collected at VUMC during routine clinical testing and linked to a “synthetic derivative” — a copy of VUMC’s electronic medical records from which patients’ personal identifying information has been removed while still preserving the clinical information generated in the ongoing delivery of health care.

The linking of specific DNA sequences to clinical information has enabled researchers to understand a wide range of health conditions, from cancer to heart disease, as well as genetic factors that increase the risk for severe illness following infections, including COVID-19.

Nashville Biosciences is a clinical and genomic analytics company providing access to VUMC’s research resources, notably BioVU, and is helping biopharmaceutical, diagnostics, and other life sciences partners accelerate their R&D activities. Since its founding in 2018, Nashville Biosciences has partnered with more than 60 clients to utilize BioVU to identify new disease biomarkers and potential drug targets, optimize clinical trials and conduct other studies using real-world data.

In 2016, for example, VUMC researchers and Illumina collaborated to analyze approximately 100,000 BioVU DNA samples using Illumina’s Multi-Ethnic Genotyping Array (MEGA). At the time, it was the largest single use of the MEGA array and has provided BioVU researchers a rich platform for genetic discovery since its completion.

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