DNA Chain

The power of industry collaboration – Johnson & Johnson collaborates with government, world-leading research charity and industry in ground-breaking Whole Genome Sequencing project

The biggest scientific challenges cannot be solved in isolation.  Johnson & Johnson Innovation is founded on the principles of partnership and collaboration to deliver meaningful impact in healthcare, and we are particularly interested in new models of collaboration that can help tackle some of the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges.

This week, we announced just such a strategic partnership.  The Johnson & Johnson Innovation team based at the EMEA Innovation Centre in London facilitated this collaboration, on behalf of Janssen Research & Development for the Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) project.  The WGS project will sequence the complete genetic code of 500,000 UK Biobank volunteers and is the single most ambitious sequencing programme in the world undertaken as a public-private initiative.  It represents a major potential advance for public health and reinforces the UK’s position at the forefront of genomics, and inter-industry collaboration.  Johnson & Johnson, along with Amgen, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), came together with the Wellcome Trust and the government’s UK Research and Innovation agency to fund the £200M project.

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[Credit: Wellcome Sanger Institute, Genome Research Ltd.]

The Biobank volunteers have already shared their medical records and related healthcare and lifestyle information.  By combining these data sets (in a way which does not identify the individual volunteers), this resource will serve as a game-changing health and wellness treasure trove of holistic data.  This will enable the global scientific community to help understand the course of disease, and diagnose, treat and ideally prevent the onset or progression of life-changing conditions.

The first tranche of genomes is expected to comprise of up to 125,000 sequences, anticipated to be accessible to all in spring 2021, while sequence data for the entire cohort of UK Biobank participants is anticipated to be generally accessible by early 2023.

The value of the collaboration will be in the meaningful insights into complex diseases we expect to gain during the nine-month window of preferred access to the data.  Equally important however, is that the data will then be open to the global scientific community to interrogate and find disease-related information and potential solutions.  This creates the next wave of potential partnerships for Johnson & Johnson Innovation to develop advances in healthcare – with academics, small companies or other large pharma partners. 

Following on from the formation of the Psychiatry Consortium earlier this year, the WGS project is the very latest innovative collaboration that Johnson & Johnson Innovation has supported. We are all excited about the possibilities in healthcare advances and discoveries that can happen when such a diverse group of healthcare stakeholders are aligned.

The full announcement  can be found here.

Nerida Scott

Vice President, New Ventures & Transactions, Johnson & Johnson Innovation