Finland-based FinnGen is a large-scale genome research collaboration that now includes eleven industry partners, becoming one of the largest public-private studies in the world as Janssen and Maze Therapeutics join the project. The FinnGen project isset on a path to create significant growth in research, innovation and direct investment to Finland in the coming years.
FinnGen aims at breakthroughs in disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The study, launched in autumn 2017, is a broad academic-industrial collaboration between the Finnish biobanks and their respective Universities, University Hospitals, the Institute of Health and Welfare (THL), the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service and now 11 international pharmaceutical companies. The study is funded by the industrial 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), Janssen, Maze Therapeutics, Pfizer and Business Finland.
“The FinnGen project is like a magnet that draws the interest of the global pharmaceutical industry to Finland and brings significant new players and investments to strengthen the ecosystem,” says Minna Hendolin, Senior Director, Health and Wellbeing, Business Finland. “These initial investments in research are just the beginning. We expect remarkable growth in research and development investment over the next years. FinnGen has also worked extremely well in creating links between the international pharma and Finnish companies, which we hope will eventually generate more innovation, business and cooperation models.”
One of the strategic partner companies cooperating with FinnGen is BC Platforms, a global leader in providing a powerful data and technology platform for personalized medicine. By integrating clinical and genomic data, along with data discovery and analytics solutions, BC Platforms’ technology increases speed and reduces risk from Discovery to Launch.
“FinnGen is a remarkable program, putting Finnish innovation on the global map of successful large-scale genomic research collaborations. We are proud to be a part of this initiative by delivering a safe and secure infrastructure for data sharing so that valuable datasets and insights are available for breakthroughs in pharmaceutical research and development,” says Tero Silvola, CEO of BC Platforms.
The FinnGen project will produce comprehensive genome variant data collected from samples given by 500,000 Finnish biobank participants. The genome data is combined with longitudinal, lifetime 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, many pharmaceutical companies are attracted by the opportunities offered by FinnGen. 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’s Scientific Director from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki.
Most of the funding for the FinnGen project comes from the participating pharma companies. Business Finland is prepared to co-finance this flagship project with a maximum of 20 million euros.
This article was first published on 26 February 2020 by Business Finland.