Novo Nordisk Foundation tees up $47.5M to explore the drivers of genetic disease with the Broad Institute
The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT played a significant role in mapping out genes as part of the Human Genome Project about two decades ago. Now, it’s joining forces with one of the industry’s largest research foundations in an effort to translate those maps.
The Novo Nordisk Foundation, which operates independently from the biotech Novo Nordisk, is teeing up $47.5 million to work with the Broad on mining genetic data in the hopes of better understanding how variants drive disease.
The initiative, dubbed the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Genomic Mechanisms of Disease, seeks to link scientists from Danish universities to genomic technology at the Broad, with an initial focus on Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
“Denmark has particular strength in metabolic research, and obviously the Broad Institute has its long and proud history in genomics, and then the data sciences and gene regulation technologies. So the idea is to really create synergies between those two areas of expertise,” said Broad Institute associate member Kasper Lage, who’s been tapped to lead the initiative.
The center will generate systematic datasets, which will be shared freely with the research community to help pave the way for new medicines.
“Over the last decade, (the Broad) has been enormously successful in creating very large resources, and maps of genetic association, and understanding which variants play a role in disease,” Lage told Endpoints News. “But really the big next challenge is to turn these genetic maps into mechanistic insights.”
The Novo Nordisk Foundation has handed out more than $4 billion over the last decade, but this type of large international partnership is a new model for the organization, Lage said. The foundation has a history in backing next-gen antibiotic research, and was one of 20 or so companies to support the AMR Action Fund last summer. Three years ago, it commissioned a $165 million fund, executed by Novo Holdings, designed specifically to invest in early-stage biotechs joining the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
In December, the BioInnovation Institute, a 2017 initiative of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, splintered off on its own as an independent foundation. The BII was established as an extension of the NNF to advance research and entrepreneurship in biotech, and funded some 85 research projects and startups over the course of two years.
“With its leading universities and hospitals, Boston is renowned as an international epicenter for biomedical research and innovation—and the Broad Institute has earned a reputation of being a key nexus in this rich ecosystem,” Niels-Henrik von-Holstein-Rathlou, the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s senior VP of biomedicine and health sciences, said in a statement.