BC Platforms and Microsoft will be working with Biogen and the Accelerated Cure Project to study the genetics of multiple sclerosis and accelerate research.

The Swiss firm BC Platforms has built a platform to facilitate access to and analysis of large volumes of genomic and clinical data. Since September, the company has been collaborating with Microsoft, which provides the cloud infrastructure to index and access the genomic data securely through its Azure platform.

Biogen and the Accelerated Cure Project have now announced they will be using BC Platform’s and Microsoft’s BC|RQUEST platform in order to study the causes and mechanisms of multiple sclerosis (MS). By accessing the data platform, Biogen and ACP expect to better understand how specific genetic variations impact the development of multiple sclerosis.

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Hundreds of genetic variants have been associated with MS, but their functional relevance is still unclear, stated Karol Estrada, Associate Director at Biogen. We still have considerable work to do to understand how genetic variations influence susceptibility to MS, the timing of symptom onset, disease progression, and treatment response.

BC Platforms Biogen Microsoft Multiple Sclerosis

The platform BC|RQUEST lets researchers from academia and industry access the genomic data from over 2 million people provided by biobanks across the world, including Estonia, Mexico, Finland, Poland, the US and the UK. All researchers and providers, along with technology enablers including BC Platforms, Microsoft, form part of the Open Biobank Research Enhancement Alliance (OBREA). Its goal is to provide access to genomic and clinical data of over 5 million people by 2020.

With more and more people sequencing their DNA, the main challenge nowadays is to make sense of large volumes of data from different providers, which often come in different formats and can be difficult to integrate. The aim of BC Platforms is to put all the data into a single platform in order to help researchers save valuable time and resources.

In the case of complex diseases like MS, in which multiple genes contribute to a different extent to different stages of the disease, access to large amounts of genomics and clinical data can provide a better insight into how a disease works. Big-data approaches have been gaining popularity to study complex diseases, like, for example, the RAIDs consortium study of cervical cancer.

MS affects over 2.3 million people worldwide, but treatment options are scarce, especially for the 10-15% that suffer from primary-progressive MS. The first drug for all forms of the disease, Roche’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), was approved last March, but its clinical benefit has been described as “modest.” Biogen already has an MS drug in the market, Zinbryta (daclizumab), but the EMA has restricted its use due to liver toxicity concerns.

To learn more about the latest advances in multiple sclerosis, read our review.


Images via chombosan, HQuality / Shutterstock

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