Columbia University Medical Center and Biogen Idec have established a strategic alliance worth $30 million focused on genetic research with the purpose of discovering underlying disease causes and new therapeutic options. The collaborative program is expected to broaden the knowledge of genomics and genome sequencing, as well as help patients who suffer from conditions with significant unmet clinical need, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
As part of the agreement, a collaborative sequencing and analysis facility and postdoctoral program are will be established at Columbia. The genomics research at Columbia will be guided by Biogen Idec’s expertise in disease mechanisms and pathways, as well as new medication discovery, as announced on a press release.
“Our understanding of human genetics is rapidly expanding,” explained the founding director of Columbia University’s Institute for Genomic Medicine, David Goldstein, PhD. “And there is growing recognition that the elucidation of the genetic causes of disease will have a transformative effect on both patient care and drug development in many different diseases.”
“This collaboration combines the exceptional drug development expertise of Biogen with cutting-edge genomics expertise at Columbia University Medical Center. It will not only focus on target identification and validation at the early stages of drug development, but also facilitate genetically informed evaluation of treatments,” Goldstein added.
In addition, Tim Harris, PhD, DSc, the Senior Vice President of Technology and Translational Sciences at Biogen Idec, believes that the advancements on human genetic technology and analytics are making it crucial for the discovery and development of new medicines. Therefore, he said that, “we are committed to working with leading institutions such as Columbia to advance basic genetic research and, by combining our unique strengths, accelerating the discovery of potential new treatments.”
The partnership between the company and the academic facility is expected to enable the investigation of patients’ genomes — particularly ones who register unusual treatment responses or unique disease presentations — as well as to improve understanding of the correlations between genes, pathways and disease processes. The researchers will be working to offer multiple qualified targets for new therapeutic approaches and improve the potential for the development of new treatments for patients with IPF and ALS.
“This collaboration with Biogen, with its focus on the genetic causes of diseases, fits in perfectly with Columbia’s commitment to precision medicine,” stated the dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine, Lee Goldman, MD, MPH, Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor of the University. “The development of new treatments based on this genetic understanding will have profound effects on clinical practice.”
The new facility is expected to increase genetic research and its abilities, as well as the possibilities of launching and completing whole-genome sequencing projects rapidly, in order to conduct population-scale DNA sequencing across a broad range of patients. “The strong clinical and basic science programs in neurodegenerative diseases at Columbia will significantly benefit from the Columbia/Biogen alliance,” said Tom Maniatis, PhD, Columbia’s university-wide precision medicine initiative leader.
“We expect that the alliance will dramatically advance our understanding of the genetics of these devastating diseases and ultimately lead to mechanism-based treatments, a key aspect of Columbia’s precision-medicine initiative,” added Maniatis, who also serves as the Isidore S. Edelman Professor of Biochemistry and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center.