A local biotechnology company has launched the pilot phase of a research study that will involve gathering 2,500 consenting volunteers’ DNA and medical records.
Sequence Bio, a Newfoundland and Labrador biotechnology company, has begun the pilot phase of the N.L. Genome Project — a genomics project that is trying to better understand the genes of this province’s unique population.
They hope to use the insights they get from participants to discover better medicines and find ways to better treat and prevent diseases that affect the province, like Type 1 diabetes and familial colorectal cancer — for which the province has some of the highest rates of in the world, says Sequence Bio.
“The N.L. Genome Project is a unique opportunity for Newfoundland and Labrador to lead the world in research that we hope will bring us closer to better treatments and medicines,” said Chris Gardner, CEO of the N.L. Genome Project in a press release. “And it all starts by spitting in a tube.”
Participants who consent to the study will have to provide half of a teaspoon of saliva, provide contact information, fill out a health questionnaire and give access to their medical records.
Eligible participants can enroll with a research nurse at one of the doctors’ clinics participating.
There are three doctors taking part in the project and they are Dr. David Brentnall’s office in Paradise, Dr. Dennis O'Keefe in Mount Pearl and Dr. Karl Misik in St. John's.
All personal information is kept private with a study code, which is “so unique that you’d need to generate one billion of them per second for about 85 years to find a match,” says Sequence Bio.
“Newfoundland is one of the few founder populations in the world with the potential to discover genetic biomarkers that can be used to identify novel drug targets,” Michael Phillips, the project’s chief scientific officer said in a press release. “We have a unique opportunity to make important discoveries and contribute to genetics research from right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
The collected data from this phase of the project will be used for a larger research project on 10,000 plus participants.
The results from those participants will be optimized to discover specific markers that show the participant’s possibility of developing certain diseases and for manufacturing drugs that are better targeted to individuals.
Participants have the option for their doctors to receive research findings about their genetic makeup — like what their carrier status is for specific conditions that may affect their child and if there is presence of genes that are linked to life-threatening diseases.
They also have the option to receive findings like what their body’s reaction to caffeine is, or their sensitivity to bitterness is.
The N.L. Genome Project is a volunteer-based survey and participants will not receive payment.
Interested participants can view their website at www.nlgenomeproject.ca