Advancing the frontiers of personalized medicine through deep collaboration

Late in 2023, 13 global pharmaceutical companies recommitted their support for the FinnGen research project, providing an additional 54 million euros for the third phase of the project. This latest phase promises to capitalize on FinnGen's foundational research to accelerate the understanding of disease progression and the development of new drugs.

FinnGen is a research project in genomics and personalized medicine. Photo: FinnGen

In early March 2024, the latest plenary of FinnGen's third phase convened in Cambridge, US, bringing together representatives of the 13 pharmaceutical partners and the academic and biobank partners, including the project’s lead organization, the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), as well as the Broad Institute and Finnish governmental organizations associated with the project.

Sharing in a PRE-competitive environment

FinnGen exemplifies the strength and contributions of a successful public-private partnership. The project takes advantage of Finland's comprehensive health data and distinct population genetics to understand the biological causes of diseases. A collective endeavor in a pre-competitive environment, global pharmaceutical companies, Finnish biobanks, and academics come together to create a rich resource, sharing their discoveries and analytical tools with the wider scientific community. 

Therefore, the spirit of the plenary maintained strict confidentiality to allow open discussion and enable the pharma participants to share insights from their research without jeopardizing their proprietary drug discovery programs.

ambitious aims

Nonetheless, within these confidentiality constraints, there were in-depth discussions on both the broad directions and the details of ongoing and upcoming research activities. 

The plenary participants shared the expansive scope of the research and operational agendas supported by the renewed financing for this third phase, and reaffirmed their commitment to the core research mission of enhancing the understanding the genetic basis of disease for all. 

A common theme was the way in which the multi-layered genetic and medical data assembled by the FinnGen project consortium is leading to the discovery of novel targets and an improved understanding of disease progression and drug responses.

The role of FinnGen in the global research landscape

Genomic insights know no borders. While FinnGen is driven and orchestrated from Helsinki, Finland, the pharma and academic representatives came from labs across the world, and not always from their organization’s home country. For example, many were based a few blocks from where the plenary was held. Furthermore, participants brought a rich diversity of nationalities, degrees, and expertise, truly making FinnGen a global endeavor.

Public-private partnerships

Conversations with plenary participants revealed many anecdotes of FinnGen’s role in global genomic R&D. Also, the value of pre-competitive collaboration was regularly mentioned, with advocates praising FinnGen as a model for beneficial, collective progress in a highly competitive field, while deftly balancing public and private goals.  

The primary funders, large global pharma companies with billions of euros in annual revenue, still require teams engaged with FinnGen to demonstrate the continued value of the project and compete for internal resources. This ongoing funding underscores the project's recognized potential and promise.

Looking towards 2024 and beyond

The research plans and project directions discussed showed the enthusiasm among the consortium members and their commitment to FinnGen’s foundational research goals. This public-private partnership has brought leading pharmaceutical competitors together into a deeply cooperative environment, creating more value together than could be achieved individually. Built on the successes of the previous two phases and powered by the dedication and collaboration of the consortium partners, this third phase promises new discoveries and a deeper understanding of a range of diseases and targets.

FinnGen is a research project in genomics and personalized medicine. It is a large public-private partnership that has collected and analyzed genome and health data from 500,000 Finnish biobank donors to understand the genetic basis of diseases. Expanding the understanding of the progression and biological mechanisms of diseases, FinnGen provides a world-class resource for further breakthroughs in disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Written by

Charlie Schick
Senior Advisor Charlie Schick

United States of America

Health and Wellbeing