Bristol Myers Squibb is one of nine pharma companies that make up the UK Biobank-Exome Sequencing Consortium (UKB-ESC).

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Transforming drug development using UK Biobank genetic data

Bristol Myers Squibb is part of a consortium under the UK Biobank, which has released invaluable genetic sequencing data to the medical community that can aid in drug discovery and improve patient lives

June 29, 2021

The medical community now has access to de-identified genetic sequencing data of more than 200,000 participants in the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource with half a million participants. The data was released in the fall by the UK Biobank (UKB), and was generated by the UK Biobank-Exome Sequencing Consortium (UKB-ESC), which aims to ultimately release the data of all 500,000 participants. Bristol Myers Squibb is one of nine biopharma companies that comprise the UK-ESC.

An analysis of this most recent data and its potential value in drug development was recently published in the journal Nature Genetics.

“These large resources allow us to perform target discovery, target characterization and prioritization analyses, and mechanistic studies,” said Joe Szustakowski, vice president, Translational Bioinformatics. The UK Biobank is an incredible resource with a rich collection of data, including demographics, medical history, health outcomes, and lifestyles. In addition, the UKB and its partners continue to generate new data including imaging, genetics, protein and metabolomic biomarkers. The data are longitudinal in nature, which enables a multitude of analyses that are just not possible in smaller data sets.”

It’s a resource with significant potential to help drive and shape drug discovery, and make possible new scientific discoveries that can benefit patients.

“One of our top priorities is to identify novel drug targets. If you can find a gene that is associated with a disease or other phenotype of interest, that may suggest that that gene or its protein product is a potential drug target,” he said. “We also use these data to characterize and prioritize targets. This allows us to predict the potential biological consequences of drugging a specific target. These approaches will help more deeply investigate our portfolio and address unmet medical needs.”

“Without the 500,000 participants who generously volunteered to take part in the UK Biobank – none of this would be possible,” Szustakowski said. “The research they helped catalyze will enable the scientific community to better understand the underlying mechanisms of diseases, to identify and prosecute novel drug targets, and to generate testable hypotheses about which patients are most likely to benefit from certain treatments.  These are critical steps in our efforts to address unmet medical needs and improve human health.”

Read the full article, “Advancing Human Genetics Research and Drug Discovery through Exome Sequencing of the UK Biobank,” from Nature Genetics here.