In a previous post, I discussed a number of large sequencing projects, including by the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, which are sequencing the genomes of 100,000 of their citizens each.
I also lamented that these projects are exclusively government-funded, and that big pharma and biotechnology companies don't appear to consider large-scale sequencing a viable approach to drug discovery. Well, actually some of them do.
Three recent developments stand out:
Regeneron, a large biopharmarmaceutical company, has teamed up with Geisinger Health Systems, a local American healthcare network, to sequence 100,000 exomes at an estimated cost of $100 million. Geisinger has detailed electronic health records of its patients, which will help with the interpretation of the data.
Amgen, another large biopharma company, announced that it would partner with the Broad Institute, one of the world's biggest genomics research institutes, to discover new drug targets. Prior to that, Amgen had acquired DeCode Genetics, which despite producing first-class science had been struggling.
And finally, the pharmaceutical giant GSK, together with two European genomics research centres, the EBI and the Sanger Institute (where I'm based), launched the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV), which will validate drug targets using a genomic approach.
Overall, it seems that pharmaceutical and biotech companies indeed have an increasing appetite for applying genomics to drug discovery. The question remains how successful this approach will be, and how much of an advantage it confers to the companies that invest in it.