Amgen's IBD gene hunt
Amgen Inc. is teaming up with researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to find new targets in inflammatory bowel disease. The partners hope an unbiased search for genetic variants that lower risk of the autoimmune disorder will uncover therapeutic entry points.
Amgen will work with teams led by Ramnik Xavier, chief of gastroenterology and director of the Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease at MGH, and Mark Daly, an associate professor of medicine at MGH. Xavier and Daly are both senior associate members of the Broad Institute.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) encompasses Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). Genetic and tissue studies have implicated a diverse range of immunological, metabolic and gut microbial pathways in IBD.
Prior genomewide association studies by Xavier and others have identified genetic variants that strongly influence IBD risk.1However, not everyone carrying these risk genes becomes ill. Thus, Xavier suspects that additional, unknown genetic factors can counteract disease-associated genes and protect against IBD.
"The aim of the collaboration is to find these protective variants," said Xavier. "We will look at individuals who have not yet developed disease despite having genetic variants associated with high risk."