Broad Institute genomics and Dx project draws $74M more from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim

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A massive research partnership focused on advancing genomic medicine and diagnostics in Latin America will be kicking into a new phase of work, backed by $74 million in additional funding from a foundation established by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

His Carlos Slim Foundation previously contributed $65 million to the launch of the initial program in 2010. Dubbed The Slim Initiative for Genomic Medicine in the Americas, or SIGMA, it's based at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Cambridge, MA. The new effort continues with the Broad and the Carlos Slim Health Institute, as well as the Institute of Genomic Medicine of Mexico and others. The Broad Institute announced the new funding at an event it hosted Oct. 29. 

"In just a few years, our work together with our colleagues in Mexico has been enormously productive and enriching to the scientific community," Broad Institute President and Director Eric Lander said in a statement. "It's now time to expand this international partnership so that it truly benefits our children--both in Mexico and in the United States."

The partnership's SIGMA 2 project will work in part on coming up with new diagnostic tools for breast cancer and diabetes, the Broad Institute said. Work projects will include the completion of a genetic analysis of both diseases, plus the development of genetic road maps to guide new treatments.

SIGMA 2 will build on work accomplished during the first phase of the SIGMA project, the Broad Institute noted. That included the identification of a common gene variation that predisposes Latin American populations to Type 2 diabetes and can't be found in European populations. The wide collaboration also spotted new genetic factors behind head and neck cancer, lymphoma, breast cancer and other cancers. Additionally, the team spotted a gene for medullary cystic kidney disease Type 1--something that isn't very common, but patients burdened with the gene often face dialysis or a kidney transplant. 

Lander said that the focus on Latin American populations has been crucial, because most gene research targets European-connected populations.

"There are many discoveries that can only be made by studying non-European populations," Lander said. "In addition to the scientific importance of studies in Latin America, it is essential that the benefits of the genomic revolution be accessible to people throughout the Americas and the world."

- read the release
- here's GenomeWeb's take (reg. req.)
- check out The Boston Globe's coverage (sub. req.)

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