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GMI and University of Cambridge Announce MS Research Collaboration

Irish life sciences company Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI) is to collaborate with the University of Cambridge to expand GMI’s comprehensive research examining the underlying genetic factors contributing to Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The collaboration will leverage up to 15,000 DNA-extracted MS samples which are part of a biobank compiled by Professor Stephen Sawcer – a leading University of Cambridge academic, neurologist and geneticist – in conjunction with his team in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences. This large dataset, when combined with samples already being collated via GMI’s ongoing Irish cross-border MS research study, will result in one of the world’s largest MS-focused genomic studies ever conducted.

As with any research study, the larger the available analytical data the greater the potential outcomes, therefore this collaboration will provide an enormously increased opportunity for MS researchers to achieve meaningful results that will benefit MS patients not only in Ireland but worldwide.

MS is one of the most common disabling neurological diseases and directly affects an estimated 2.5 million people across the globe, with the majority of those affected experiencing chronic disability. Researchers will combine advanced scientific technology in genomics, the study of all of a person’s genes, together with detailed clinical information to provide insights into how and why the disease develops in the search for answers that one day might lead to the development of new therapeutics for better treatment and prevention of MS.

The University of Cambridge has a strong tradition in neuroscience having been host to the first analyses of neural signalling in the 1930s; determined the mechanisms of neuronal firing in the 1950s; and heralded some of the early theoretical approaches to the functions of neural circuitry in the 1960s. Its Department of Clinical Neurosciences is embedded within Cambridge University Hospitals at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, allowing its research questions to stem from problems its researchers have encountered in the clinic, and to directly address the needs of patients and families.  Its mission is to understand the nervous system in health and disease in order to develop new treatments for incurable neurological disorders.

Dr. Sean Ennis, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Genomics Medicine Ireland said, “We’re really excited to collaborate with Cambridge’s Department of Clinical Neurosciences in greatly expanding our research into MS. Our enlarged dataset means that we now have a significantly greater possibility for discoveries which will benefit not only MS patients in Ireland and the UK, but across the world also.”

Professor Stephen Sawcer, University of Cambridge said, “There are hundreds of genetic variants that influence the risk of developing MS, but little is known about how they exert these effects, and we have no hard evidence about which genetic variants influence the severity of the disease or determine which treatments are best suited to each individual. With the help of GMI and genomics, we aim to close these gaps in our knowledge, so we are delighted to be participating in this research as its size and scope has the potential substantially promote the development of safe and effective rational treatments.”

Genomics Medicine Ireland is currently undertaking genomic studies across the island of Ireland. The company established Ireland’s first, purpose-built genomics sequencing laboratory earlier this year and is undertaking world-class research into major chronic diseases within oncology, neuroscience and immunology that affect hundreds of thousands of people on the island of Ireland and hundreds of millions worldwide.