UCD and GMI Announce Collaboration to Accelerate Precision Medicine Discoveries

Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI) and University College Dublin (UCD) have today announced a collaboration agreement as a part of a large scale population research programme, across more than 60 diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s, in Ireland.

The collaboration is one of the largest academic and industry collaborations in genomics research to be announced globally and will examine the relationship between genetic variation and human disease in up to 10% of the Irish population.

Genomics research has the potential to transform healthcare by providing a greater understanding of the role a person’s genes, behaviours and environment plays in their general health.  This knowledge is critical for the development of new drugs to combat common complex diseases in addition to personalised medical care tailored to the individual. This should provide more effective treatment than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of care used today.

The research teams in UCD and GMI will focus on uncovering novel biology that will translate into new precision therapies and treatments to benefit patients.

Over the lifetime of the agreement, the GMI and UCD Genomics Research Collaboration will also target key initiatives to build capacity, train and develop the next generation of medical professionals in the area of genomic medicine which will be critical for Ireland’s engagement and success in this ground-breaking field.

Professor Andrew Deeks, UCD President, said, “Today’s announcement provides us with the opportunity to apply UCD’s significant research and health sciences expertise to the development of genomic research and precision medicine in Ireland with potential to add real value in improving healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.”

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “Our collaboration with GMI provides a significant platform for UCD, and our affiliated hospitals within the Irish East Hospital Group, to build capacity, skills and infrastructure in the area of genomic medicine. This agreement is the culmination of extensive discussions around how opportunities in genomic medicine and its benefits to patients can be realised in a careful and appropriate way. We now look forward to working with GMI to deliver globally impactful research that advances the field of precision medicine and puts Ireland at the centre of global genomics research and innovation.”

Dr Anne Jones, CEO, Genomics Medicine Ireland said, “Genomics Medicine Ireland was established at NovaUCD so we are very proud to partner with UCD given our shared history and the institution’s strong heritage and reputation in research and innovation. This collaboration agreement has significant potential to lead to new drug development  as well as advance Ireland’s skills and expertise in clinical genomics, bioinformatics, clinical research and genomic laboratory science.”

$400 Million Investment Programme Positions Ireland for Global Leadership in Genomic Research and Advanced Life Sciences 

 

  • Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and leading global investors back significant expansion of Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI), creating up to 600 high-value jobs over five years
  • GMI to become Irish subsidiary of WuXi NextCODE, with the global-scale resources and platform to realise one of the largest whole genome sequencing programmes in the world
  • Investment will also be leveraged to position Ireland as an important hub for genomic research and advanced life sciences

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), an Irish sovereign development fund, WuXi NextCODE, the emerging global standard platform for genomics, and Irish life sciences company Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI), today announce details of a $400 million (€350M) investment programme aimed at making Ireland an important hub for genomics research and development of new disease treatments and cures. Under the initiative, GMI will become a subsidiary of WuXi NextCODE, which serves as the technology engine for the leading population genomics efforts in Europe, the US and Asia. This will create up to 600 high-value jobs over five years and will position GMI as the cornerstone for a Silicon Docks-modelled International Centre for Advanced Life Sciences (ICALS). Under the terms of the investment, $225 million (€197M) will be committed to GMI in the near term increasing to $400 million in line with the achievement of milestones as GMI expands and an ICALS develops in the medium term.

Alongside ISIF, who are investing $70 million, major Silicon Valley and sovereign wealth funds and other global investors will also invest in the initiative through WuXi NextCODE and GMI. These include:

Expansion of Genomics Medicine Ireland’s Research Programme

The launch investment will be focused on the expansion of GMI to undertake one of the world’s largest whole genome sequencing programmes. The programme will target participation from 400,000 volunteers, or one in every ten people in Ireland, including patients with a range of common and rare diseases. This will help to deliver healthcare benefits to Irish patients and create a unique platform for research and discovery of new precision medicines for the treatment of life-limiting conditions which currently have no cure.

The initiative builds upon Ireland’s unique advantages for conducting population genomics research at scale:

  • a relatively homogeneous population, which makes key genes easier to identify;
  • a population large enough to have both common and rare diseases in significant numbers;
  • high-quality healthcare and medical research facilities; and
  • a demonstrable track record of high participation among the population in similar research programmes in the past.

To kick-off the investment programme, the company proposes establishing a strategic advisory board comprised of experts and key stakeholders from academia, the health sector and industry to help foster the programme and maximise potential patient impact.

Creation of an International Centre for Advanced Life Sciences

GMI’s sizable population genomics programme as well as WuXi NextCODE’s genomics platform will be leveraged to provide core infrastructure of a global hub to attract Irish and international enterprises and organisations working in the life sciences industry including:

  • Multi-omics
  • Research and bioinformatics
  • Precision medicine development
  • Medical genetics services
  • Digital health
  • Cloud computing
  • High performance computing and artificial intelligence

In addition to the investments announced today, early-stage discussions to fund a genomics accelerator are already underway targeting further development of Ireland’s ecosystem in this field to support new start-ups and early-stage companies with similar specialist skills and research capabilities.

The potential for Ireland as an International Centre for Advanced Life Sciences can be seen from the experience of San Diego, California, which has a comparable population of about 3.3M people. San Diego has built an entire ecosystem around genomics and related life sciences sectors, yielding a $33.6B economic impact through more than 1,225 life sciences companies and 80 independent and university-affiliated research institutes together employing 37,790 people[1].

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, said: “GMI is a real Irish life sciences success story. In just three years since their founding they have proven their capacity to deliver and to grow and, in partnership with the State’s Strategic Investment Fund, are now poised for a further exciting period of expansion.  GMI’s success is a reflection on the wider success of Ireland as a location for the life sciences industry for more than 50 years. Twenty-four of the world’s largest pharma and biotech companies are located here, creating valuable employment and contributing to our economic success. As a country, we have continuously worked to attract and retain investment from the life sciences sector and we are now positioning for the next wave of knowledge-driven innovation being led by the genomics industry and the economic benefits that will bring. With this partnership between GMI, ISIF and WuXi NextCODE we are creating an ecosystem of expertise in advanced life sciences right here in Ireland.  That, in turn, will ultimately deliver better health and wellness management to people and patients in Ireland and turn the advances we make here into benefits for people around the world.”

Paul Saunders, Ireland Strategic Investment Fund Senior Investment Director, said: “This investment shows ISIF’s ability to act as a catalyst for major investment in high-value economic activity in Ireland by teaming up with top-tier co-investment partners from around the globe.  Through ISIF’s investment in WuXi NextCODE, GMI should be well positioned to scale its activities significantly and quickly, generating new jobs in Ireland, and enhancing Ireland’s reputation as a centre for genomics research. This is an excellent example of ISIF’s ‘double bottom line’ mandate of supporting economic activity and employment in Ireland while seeking a commercial return.”

Rob Brainin, CEO, WuXi NextCODE said; “We are very excited by the singular potential of the Irish whole-genome sequencing programme, which aims to enrol and read the genome of some 400 thousand people, or 10% of the population. As a company that seeks to improve lives through genomics worldwide, I believe that this will be a unique platform for developing new medicine and better healthcare, to the benefit first of patients in Ireland but also people around the globe. Our experience in powering national genome efforts on three continents positions us well to accelerate the outstanding success of GMI to date. Leveraging that leadership, GMI will become the lynchpin of genomic sequencing and discovery for WuXi NextCODE in Europe, and the core of a significant hub in life sciences as a spawning ground for new globally oriented enterprises based in Ireland.”

Paul Thurk, Co-Founder of GMI and Managing Director Europe at ARCH Venture Partners, added, “Arch Venture Partners was one of the first venture firms to recognise the huge potential of genomics.  We were founding investors in world leaders such as deCODE in Iceland and Illumina in San Diego 20 years ago and more recently, NextCODE in Boston and have continued to invest globally in the space since.  In setting-up GMI, we were drawn to Ireland’s unique attributes: the genome that links its population with a massive global diaspora, the pharma presence, the data infrastructure, and the talent.  Taken with our unique ability to leverage the progress, learnings and networks built over the last 20 years, we’re well positioned to build something awesome.”

Anne Jones, CEO of Genomics Medicine Ireland, commented, “WuXi NextCODE is a recognised global leader in the field and is helping to drive many national-scale precision medicine efforts. This landmark investment in GMI will enable us to rapidly scale our study capacity to upwards of 60 disease areas in research sites across Ireland, giving us operational independence backed by global connections and funding. In doing so, Ireland – its people, hospitals, universities and enterprises – will benefit from a globally leading position in the most important new fields in life sciences. As a native of Tipperary who has spent the bulk of my career in major research institutions and healthcare companies in the US and UK, it is a thrilling opportunity to come back and be able to leverage WuXi NextCODE’s capabilities and global reach first for patients here, and in a way that will impact lives around the world.”

Today’s announcement follows on from the recent announcement by WuXi NextCODE’s sister company, WuXi Biologics, supported by IDA Ireland, that it is establishing a state-of-the-art biopharma facility in Dundalk that will create more than 400 jobs. WuXi NextCODE is also in discussions with IDA Ireland on this significant initiative.

GMI Genomics Centre Awarded CAP-Accreditation

GMI’s Genomics Centre, opened in February 2018, has been awarded CAP accreditation.  CAP, or the College of American Pathologists,  is the world’s largest association composed exclusively of pathologists certified by the American Board of Pathology, and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The CAP is an advocate for high-quality and cost-effective medical care.