New Whole Genome Sequencing collaboration

Written by:

Carolina Haefliger

Head of the Centre for Genomics Research, Discovery Sciences, R&D

I am delighted to announce AstraZeneca has joined the UKRI, Wellcome, Amgen, GSK and Johnson & Johnson in a project that will sequence the entire genetic code of all 500,000 participants in the UK Biobank health research resource.

The Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) project is one of the most ambitious sequencing programmes ever undertaken. Its long-term aim is to enable the scientific community to better understand, diagnose, treat and prevent life-changing diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.

Through this project, we hope to further harness the power of genomics, attempting to understand disease biology better and identify novel targets and biomarkers; an effort which aims to advance the development of innovative new medicines.

The WGS project will be an important contribution to our Genomics Initiative. In 2016, we set a bold ambition to analyse 2 million genomes by 2026. By early next year, we expect to have analysed around half a million genomes and are on track to reach our goal.

In the WGS project, the sequencing of whole genomes alongside the rich clinical and lifestyle data that has been captured as part of the UK Biobank programme will give us valuable information into the coding and non-coding regions that may impact how proteins are expressed. It is hoped that this will lead to new insights and potentially new targets to explore. All data are appropriately de-identified and protected.

The whole genome sequencing will be undertaken by the Wellcome Sanger Institute and deCODE genetics, and the sequencing will be delivered using illumina platforms.

We believe in the power of genomics to transform drug discovery and development.

Collaborating with leading institutions is central to our approach of transforming drug discovery and development through genomics. Analysis of genomic and clinical data has already provided valuable insights into the biology of diseases, such as chronic kidney disease and I’m very excited about the potential scientific advances and future patient benefits that may come from being part of the WGS project. 

Read more about the WGS project on the UKRI’s website.