AstraZeneca launches integrated genomics approach to transform drug discovery and development

22 April 2016

AstraZeneca and its global biologics research and development arm, MedImmune, today announced an integrated genomics initiative to transform drug discovery and development across its entire research and development pipeline.

The initiative includes new collaborations with Human Longevity, Inc., US; the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK, and The Institute for Molecular Medicine, Finland. AstraZeneca will also establish an in-house Centre for Genomics Research which will develop a bespoke database comprising genome sequences from samples donated by patients in its clinical trials together with associated clinical and drug response data.

AstraZeneca believes that embedding genomics across its research and development platforms will:

  • deliver novel insights into the biology of diseases;
  • enable the identification of new targets for medicines;
  • support selection of patients for clinical trials;
  • allow patients to be matched with treatments more likely to benefit them.

Menelas Pangalos, Executive Vice President, Innovative Medicines & Early Development at AstraZeneca said: “Using the power of genomics is the foundation of our ambition to develop the most innovative and impactful treatments for patients. With the advent of next generation sequencing and the increased sophistication of data analysis, the time is now right to immerse ourselves fully in the international genomics community through these pioneering collaborations and through the creation of our own genome centre. We will leverage information from up to 2 million genome sequences, including over 500,000 from our own clinical trials, to drive drug discovery and development across all our therapeutic areas. Genomics will be fundamental to our laboratory research, our clinical trials and the launch of our medicines for patients.”

  • Human Longevity, Inc, US.
    AstraZeneca aims to share up to 500,000 DNA samples with Human Longevity, Inc, from which Human Longevity will sequence full genomes and deploy its state-of-the-art machine learning, pattern recognition and other analytical techniques. These genomic samples will include those donated by patients under optional informed consent in AstraZeneca’s clinical trials. AstraZeneca will also gain access to Human Longevity’s unique database of up to 1 million integrated genomic and health records to add to its analysis.
  • AstraZeneca’s Centre for Genomics Research
    AstraZeneca is creating an in-house Centre for Genomics Research focused on the creation and use of a bespoke database of genome sequences from samples donated by patients in its clinical trials over the past 15 and over the next 10 years, integrated with associated clinical and drug response data. In addition, the Centre will access up to 500,000 genomes available through AstraZeneca’s collaborations and from the public domain. The Centre will be located in AstraZeneca’s corporate headquarters in Cambridge and work closely with the international genomics community to derive broad scientific and clinical benefit from these unprecedented genomic resources.
  • The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK
    AstraZeneca will establish a research team led by a genomics expert of international reputation, embedded within The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute’s world-renowned Genome Centre in Cambridge, UK. AstraZeneca will share genomic samples and associated clinical data, plus its drug development expertise across core therapy areas. The two parties will identify new targets and biomarkers with potential use in diagnostic tests.
  • The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki, Finland
    AstraZeneca will collaborate with The Institute for Molecular Medicine, Finland and its partners in Finland and the US, to study genes of interest in the Finnish population, which is known to carry a higher than normal frequency of rare variants. Additionally, Finland has an integrated health record system supported by a national biobanking law that facilitates recall of volunteers for thorough clinical evaluation.

Bahija Jallal, Executive Vice President, MedImmune, said: “The fields of genetics and genomics evolve so rapidly that no single company can internalise this type of research and do it all themselves. We are acutely aware of this, which is why we have chosen to work with the genomics community to leverage external expertise in genomic analyses and the design of large-scale genetic studies. Together, with the rich clinical data from our biobank, we will translate these findings into better understanding of disease and ultimately, more effective treatments for patients.”

In line with AstraZeneca’s “open innovation” approach to research and development, research findings from all collaborations across its genomic platform will be published in peer-reviewed journals, contributing to the broader scientific understanding of the genetic influence of disease and positioning AstraZeneca as a key player in the global genomics research community.



Watch a short video explaining the genomics platform at AstraZeneca.

About genomics
Genomics is the study of the genome, a double string of DNA which carries all the genes necessary to make and operate an organism. Although most of the information contained in the genome is the same between all individuals, there are many small differences which scientists believe can combine with environmental influences to cause common diseases such as diabetes, asthma or cancer.  Studying genomes across large populations allows us to more accurately pinpoint these differences and to develop new treatments that combat unwanted abnormalities in gene function which give rise to disease.

About Human Longevity, Inc.
Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI) is the genomics-based, technology-driven company creating the world’s largest and most comprehensive database of whole genome, phenotype and clinical data. HLI is developing and applying large scale computing and machine learning to make novel discoveries to revolutionize the practice of medicine. HLI’s business also includes the HLI Health Nucleus™, a genomic powered clinical research center which uses whole genome sequence analysis, advanced clinical imaging and innovative machine learning, along with curated personal health information, to deliver the most complete picture of individual health. For more information please visit or

About The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease.

About The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki
Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) is an international research institute in Helsinki focusing on human genomics and personalized medicine. FIMM integrates molecular medicine research, technology center and biobanking infrastructures “under one roof” and thereby promotes translational research and adoption of personalized medicine in health care. FIMM is hosted by the University of Helsinki and is part of the Nordic EMBL Partnership in Molecular Medicine as well as the EU-Life network.  In 2015, FIMM had a staff of 200 and a budget of 17 million €, with competitive external funding accounting for a significant part of the budget.

About MedImmune
MedImmune is the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of small molecule and biologic prescription medicines. MedImmune is pioneering innovative research and exploring novel pathways across key therapeutic areas, including respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity; cardiovascular and metabolic disease; oncology; neuroscience; and infection and vaccines. The MedImmune headquarters is located in Gaithersburg, Md., one of AstraZeneca’s three global R&D centers, with additional sites in Cambridge, UK and Mountain View, CA. For more information, please visit

About AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. For more information please visit:


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