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AstraZeneca and Montreal Heart Institute Partner

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AstraZeneca has announced a collaboration with the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) in Quebec, Canada, to search the genomes of up to 80,000 patients for genes associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, their complications and treatment outcomes. This is one of the largest such screens of its type to date and will drive understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying these conditions and their complications. The analysis will also uncover which genetic traits are linked to better treatment outcomes.

Under the collaboration, MHI will genotype up to 80,000 DNA samples from AstraZeneca’s extensive biobank. The samples include both tissue and blood samples, which have been collected over a period of 12 years under informed consent from patients who have entered clinical trials to test cardiovascular or diabetes treatments.

MHI’s Beaulieu-Saucier Pharmacogenomics Centre will initially use an approach called genome-wide SNP analysis to identify regions of DNA that predispose to, or cause, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes or are associated with responses to treatments. They will then apply other technologies, such as next-generation sequencing, to carry out full gene sequencing of areas of interest to identify new genes associated with disease, with complications such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetic nephropathy or retinopathy, and with treatment outcomes in terms of responsiveness to medication.

The knowledge gained from genotyping the samples will be applied to the development of new medicines tailored to treat subsets of patients with particular genetic profiles. The information will also enable a personalised healthcare approach to the use of existing treatments, which means using specific medicines to treat the patient populations that are most likely to respond. Currently, approximately 80% of AstraZeneca’s pipeline benefits from a personalised healthcare approach.

Ruth March, Vice President, Personalised Healthcare and Biomarkers at AstraZeneca said: “We’re delighted to be working with the Montreal Heart Institute, which has the expertise and technological know-how to deliver this transformational programme which will unlock an unprecedented amount of genetic information about cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Together, we are taking personalised healthcare beyond its great heritage in oncology to bring targeted medicines to patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes using biomarkers and diagnostic tests.”

Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, Director of the Montreal Heart Institute Research Center and holder of both the Canada Research Chair in personalised and translational medicine and the Université de Montréal endowed research chair in atherosclerosis, said: “This large-scale partnership between AstraZeneca and the Montreal Heart Institute holds great potential for breakthroughs in personalised cardiovascular medicine and diabetes whereby medications will be tailored to responsive patients based on their genetic profile. Here at the MHI Pharmacogenomics Centre we have the expertise and high-throughput genomic platforms to carry out successfully and efficiently this important research programme.”

According to its ‘open innovation’ approach to research and development, AstraZeneca will work with MHI to publish findings in peer-reviewed journals, contributing to broader scientific understanding of these disease conditions.