Drugmakers Increasingly Turn to Genomic Databases for Research

May 15, 2015 in News

Drugmakers increasingly are compiling large amounts of human DNA into databases in an effort to develop new medications through genetic sequencing, Reuters reports.

About the Databases

The databases shorten the time it takes to identify new drug candidates by allowing researchers to analyze patient information and identify rare genetic mutations.

The data stored are collected from volunteers who have agreed to have their DNA sequenced and to provide access to their medical records.

According to Reuters, a decline in the cost of genetic sequencing — from $20,000 per genome five years ago to about $1,500 in 2014 — has allowed more drugmakers to take part.

For example:

  • Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in 2014 partnered with Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania to access a database of about 250,000 individuals to sequence partial genomes; and
  • Pfizer, Roche Holding AG and Biogen are conducting similar projects to identify new drug targets and predict drug side effects using DNA and patient health data (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 5/13).

Further, President Obama in his fiscal year 2016 budget proposal asked Congress for $215 million in funding for a personalized medicine initiative that centers around the creation of a massive database containing the genetic data of at least one million volunteer participants (iHealthBeat, 3/31).


Eric Topol, a genomics expert at the Scripps Translational Science Institute, said, “All of a sudden, it all opened up” and is “starting to really become a new preferred model for drug development.”

Meanwhile, David Goldstein, director of Columbia University’s Institute for Genomic Medicine, said, “All of the [drugmakers] are feeling like … ‘We have to do something substantial in genomics — yesterday’” (Reuters, 5/13).

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