The Finnish Genomics initiative FinnGen has entered its next phase, backed by EUR 52 million of new funding.
Since its initiation in 2017, FinnGen has developed into one of the world’s leading biobank-based genomic research projects. It has completed the construction of a research resource that integrates genomic information from half a million Finnish biobank participants with decades of national health registry data.
“The resource has been successfully deployed in genetic discovery activities and the research community has identified more than a thousand medically relevant genetic variants, including novel risk-causing and protective variants for both common and rare diseases,” describes the Institute of Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM).
FinnGen has a broad public-private collaboration model. The research consortium, led by the University of Helsinki, includes 15 Finnish academic partners and 13 international pharmaceutical companies.
Read more: Unique genetic study launched in Finland
The next phase of the study
All of the partner organizations have now signed the new FinnGen 3 consortium agreement, covering the next four-year phase of the study.
“We are thrilled to enter the next exciting chapter of FinnGen and move from the data resource construction and gene identification phase to the phase of understanding disease mechanisms and disease progression, to enhance drug target prioritization,” says Aarno Palotie, Scientific Director, FinnGen.
Future activities during the next four years will address a key challenge that has hindered the transition of genetic discoveries into novel medicines and diagnostics, described by the initiators as, “Understanding the biological processes that are involved in disease initiation, progression, severity and therapeutic responses.”
Now the aim is to leverage new findings that, in combination with other international studies, can move the field forward and provide tools for improving disease prevention, treatment and finally personalized healthcare.”
The consortium will gain access to historical biological samples and additional healthcare data types, including extensive clinical laboratory values and information about hospital-based medications. In addition, FinnGen will study the biological consequences of disease-associated variants that are specific to the Finnish population by profiling samples from carriers of such variants. They describe that new molecular and clinical data will be combined with the existing data resource to allow further scientific breakthroughs.
“Now the aim is to leverage new findings that, in combination with other international studies, can move the field forward and provide tools for improving disease prevention, treatment and finally personalized healthcare,” says Palotie.
The FinnGen study is a broad academic-industrial collaboration between the Finnish biobanks and their respective universities and wellbeing service counties, the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL), the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service, the Finnish Biobank Cooperative – FINBB and 13 international pharmaceutical companies. The current phase of the study is being supported by AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, Genentech, GSK, Janssen Biotech, Maze Therapeutics, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi. These companies also funded phases 1 and 2, along with Business Finland. The academic organization responsible for the study is the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) at the University of Helsinki.
Photo of Aarno Palotie: Linda Tammisto