Published 2017-12-19

FinnGen taps into a unique gene pool to find the next breakthroughs in disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment -Finnish Clinical Biobank Tampere involved

A unique study has been launched in Finland that will deepen our understanding about the origins of diseases and their treatment. The FinnGen study plans to tap into 500 000 unique blood samples collected by a nation-wide network of Finnish biobanks. The study is expected to continue for six years, securing funding of 59M€.

The goals of the study are ambitious. ”All breakthroughs that arise from the project will eventually benefit health care systems and patients both locally and globally. The study will, for instance, help us find new areas for drug discovery and ways to prevent disease. The FinnGen study will most definitely have a positive impact on the attractiveness of Finland as a global pioneer for medical research and innovation,” says Research Director Aarno Palotie, from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) at the University of Helsinki.

The research project is based on matching genome information with digital health care data from national registries. All samples are coded before analysis, and the study is conducted following the highest standards of data security.

FinnGen is coordinated by researchers from the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Central Hospital. FinnGen is a national research project that can benefit everyone – both nationally and globally. All Finns can take part in the study by giving a biobank consent allowing the use of their samples.  

FinnGen is globally an unprecedented research project – a similar study has never been performed at the same scale. Due to the unique heritage of the Finnish population, our genome data can be analysed faster and more effectively than in populations of more heterogenous origins – significantly improving the chances of breakthrough findings. ”Finland offers a great foundation for nation-wide genome research. The FinnGen study is also characterized by exceptionally broad and open cooperation between biobanks, universities, health care districts, the health care industry and hopefully hundreds of thousands of Finns,” says Kimmo Pitkänen, Director of Helsinki Biobank.

In addition to biobanks and research organizations, the Finnish Funding Agency TEKES, nine Finnish enterprises and seven international pharmaceutical companies take part in the study: Abbvie, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Celgene, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA and Pfizer. ”Tekes wanted to support the project, because of its potential to promote healthcare innovation and support the growth and internationalization of local businesses. In addition, the project makes Finland more attractive in the eyes of global businesses and investors,” says Development Director Minna Hendolin, who is responsible for Health and Wellbeing at Tekes.

Samples are needed from all over Finland in the thousands, because solutions in the field of personalized healthcare can be found only by looking at large masses. The FinnGen study will benefit Finns long into the future. ”With FinnGen, we can build a foundation for health innovations and personalized treatments. When the study is finished, all data that has been produced during the project will stay in the ownership of Finnish biobanks and will remain at the disposal of Finnish researchers and companies”, Palotie concludes and wishes all Finns welcome on a common journey into our heritage.

Coordinators:

University of Helsinki, HiLIFE,

Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland FIMM

Helsinki University Central Hospital (HUCH)

Funders:

Tekes, The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation

Abbvie

AstraZeneca

Biogen

Celgene

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group

Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA

Pfizer

Finnish Biobanks and their host organizations:

Auria Biobank

Hospital District of Southwest Finland

University of Turku

Satakunta Hospital District

Vaasa Hospital District

Helsinki Biobank

Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS)

University of Helsinki

Kymenlaakso Social and Health Services (Carea)

South Karelia Social and Health Care District (Eksote)

Finnish Hematology Registry and Clinical Biobank (FHRB)

Finnish Red Cross Blood Service

Finnish Association of Hematology 

Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki

Biobank of Eastern Finland

Northern Savo Hospital District

University of Eastern Finland

South Savo Social and Health Care Authority

Joint Municipal Authority for North Karelia Social and Health services (Siun sote)

Eastern Savo Hospital District

Central Finland Biobank

Central Finland Health Care District

University of Jyväskylä

Northern Finland Biobank Borealis

Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District

University of Oulu

Nordlab

Central Ostrobothnia’s Joint Municipal Authority for Specialised Medical Care and Basic Services

Kainuu Social and Health Care Joint Municipal Authority

Lappi Hospital District

Länsi-Pohja Hospital District

Finnish Clinical Biobank Tampere

Pirkanmaa Hospital District

University of Tampere

Kanta-Häme Hospital District

South Ostrobothnia Hospital District

THL Biobank

The National Institute of Health and Welfare

Blood Service Biobank

Finnish Red Cross Blood Service