One of the largest genetic studies in the United States is set to occur over the next five years, analyzing over 100,000 patients' DNA in an attempt to link genes with human diseases, disorders, and other medical conditions. The study will be run by pharmaceutical maker Regeneron in a partnership with the around 3 million-member Geisinger Health System. Naturally, Regeneron is looking to develop new drugs that it can market, while Geisinger is hoping to improve patient care at the individual level, as the study's large size is meant to provide a high level of precision in linking genes and diseases.
Around $100 million to analyze over 100,000 patients
The study will of course be quite expensive. The New York Times pegs the total cost as around $100 million over the course of the five-year study — though it's an amount that the Times says is more than manageable for Regeneron. Regeneron reportedly plans to keep its costs down too by only analyzing a small portion of the sample DNA, performing only exome sequencing, which costs around $1,000 per sample.
While there's an obvious profit motive for Regeneron, it tells the Times that many of its findings will be made public and that it believes it can still profit off of its increased familiarity with the results. That's still a big risk for Regeneron: so far, genomics hasn't proven to be the goldmine of new drugs that pharmaceuticals were hoping for. There's no indication that this time will be different — and at least one professor tells the Times that this type of research may be best suited to academia — but Regeneron appears to be banking on the study's large size to return meaningful results.
It's more than just pharmaceuticals and academics that will be interested in the findings though, should they provide definitive links from gene to disease or disorder. Companies such as 23andMe have turned genetics testing into a tool for those interested in learning a bit more about their health too — though some of these companies have recently found themselves in hot water with the US Food and Drug Administration over the allegedly tenuous links between DNA and meaningful scientific results. Regeneron and Geisinger could help move those claims onto more solid ground, and they intend to release results as the study moves forward.