FinnGen welcomes Janssen and Maze Therapeutics

FinnGen, a large-scale academic – industry, genome research collaboration in Finland now includes eleven industry partners with the addition of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and Maze Therapeutics.

Several recent studies have shown that new drugs are more likely to be approved if they target a gene linked to the disease. For this reason, many pharmaceutical companies have started to deploy a new strategy by investing into genomics studies, such as FinnGen.

FinnGen will produce comprehensive genome variant data of 500 000 Finnish biobank participants. The genome data is combined with longitudinal, life time follow-up health data originating from multiple national health registries.

The unique data combination allows the FinnGen researchers to identify correlations between genetic factors and health outcomes in the Finnish founder population. The study has a great potential to address the global need for large datasets that enable genetic discoveries and enhance drug target identification and prioritisation.

“Thanks to our unique cooperation model, fast progress and the great potential of the Finnish research environment, FinnGen has been found as an attractive opportunity by many pharmaceutical companies. In addition to the seven initial industry partners, two more joined in early 2019 and with Janssen and Maze Therapeutics now on board, FinnGen is among the largest public-private studies in the world”, says Aarno Palotie, FinnGen Scientific Director from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki.

FinnGen dataset already contains genotype and health data from more than 200 000 Finns. FinnGen has given a strong boost to the Finnish biobank network with on average 7 000 new samples collected each month. The amount of data will increase throughout the project, with 40 – 50 000 individuals added every six months.

“As a start-up company, we at Maze believe that the genetics being explored in Finland will lead to important new advances in medicine. Our approach focuses on leveraging genetic information to support an integrated platform to improve research and development, and we’re delighted to join the consortium as we advance that effort”, says Timothy Behrens, Head of Human Genetics and Immunology at Maze Therapeutics.

The collaboration will build on FinnGen’s existing consortium agreement with nine international pharmaceutical companies and all the relevant Finnish public stakeholders.

The other industry partners, Abbvie, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), MSD (the tradename of Merck & Co., Inc, Kenilworth, NJ USA), Pfizer and Sanofi warmly welcome the new members to the FinnGen consortium.

“Funding provided by the new partners will allow us to further enhance FinnGen recruitment efforts and focus on targeted recruitment in several clinical areas that are medically extremely important but often underrepresented in largely healthy, working age volunteer population studies”, says Mark Daly, Director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM).

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