FinnGen has now 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. In addition to an unparalleled lifelong view on health and disease, a unique aspect of FinnGen is its broad public-private collaboration model. The research consortium, led by the University of Helsinki, includes 15 Finnish academic partners and 13 international pharmaceutical companies.
The agreement covering the next phase of the study secures approximately 52 million euro in new international investment to the Finnish health research ecosystem.
“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 prioritisation”, says FinnGen’s Scientific Director, Professor Aarno Palotie from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki.
Identification of novel disease-associated variants is possible with a much smaller number of patients in Finland than elsewhere in the world.
From genetic discoveries to a fundamental understanding of health and disease
FinnGen has earlier demonstrated that the identification of novel disease-associated variants is possible with a much smaller number of patients in Finland, than elsewhere in the world. Due to its unique geographic position and linguistic isolation, the modern Finnish population, despite being broadly similar to Europeans genetically, has an unusual and large set of genetic variants rarely found elsewhere in the world.
During the past few years, the FinnGen 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.
The future activities will address a key challenge that has hindered the transition of genetic discoveries into novel medicines and diagnostics: understanding the biological processes that are involved in disease initiation, progression, severity and therapeutic responses.
The future activities will address understanding the biological processes that are involved in disease progression.
During the next four years, FinnGen will engage in studies that are expected to enhance our understanding of the longitudinal aspects of health and disease, with the hope of discoveries that could lead to ways to influence disease progression. For this, the consortium will get access to historical biological samples and additional health care data types, including extensive clinical laboratory values and information about hospital-based medications.
The 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 personalised health care”, Aarno Palotie concludes.