The Danish National Genome Center has teamed up with the UK firm Lifebit to improve the access and sharing of genomic data as the nation moves towards the adoption of personalized medicine.
Personalized medicine is capturing the attention of healthcare authorities across the world. By harvesting genome sequences from patient populations, researchers can mine vast datasets to find the most cost-effective and safest treatments for people with a particular genetic makeup. Initiatives such as the EU-wide EP PerMed, Genomics England, and the Danish National Genome Center (DNGC) are working to usher in the transition to data-guided medicine.
However, there are often many different centers and biobanks analyzing patient health data using different software and methods, creating a fragmented system. It can also be difficult to move data between centers without compromising patient privacy and security.
This week, the DNGC enlisted the UK firm Lifebit to overcome typical data sharing challenges with its cloud-based software. Lifebit virtually connects data providers such as genomics facilities and biobanks in a so-called federated system. This allows researchers to access and crunch patient data without needing to move the data between centers.
The immediate aim of the DNGC is to sequence 60,000 patient genomes by 2024. Under a four-year contract, Lifebit’s technology will serve to beef up the data-sharing capabilities of DNGC’s supercomputing cluster. It could also link up with other national personalized medicine projects such as those run by Genomics England, France Genomique, and Genomic Medicine Sweden.
“This federated trusted research environment will enable researchers to more effectively collaborate over this rich dataset at scale and drive international collaboration between other government initiatives — many of which already leverage Lifebit’s federated technology,” said Thorben Seeger, Chief Business Development Officer at Lifebit, in a public statement.
Lifebit is one of many bioinformatics specialists attracting investor attention in Europe. In September 2021, the firm bagged over €50M in a Series B round to fuel its worldwide expansion. Other efforts to link together genomics centers in a federated approach include DNAstack’s Viral AI, which is designed to improve the surveillance of viral pathogens, and the Digital Europe Programme, which aims to improve health data sharing across the EU.
Big pharma companies are growing increasingly active in collecting genomic datasets to boost their drug discovery activity. AstraZeneca, for instance, is running a project to sequence two million genomes in an effort to treat rare diseases. Meanwhile, Boehringer Ingelheim joined an initiative to sequence 500,000 genomes from Finland’s biobanks in October 2021 and hooked up with Lifebit in March this year to strengthen the pharma firm’s computing capabilities in genomics.