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11 May, 2022 - 09:24 By Tony Quested

Oxbridge duo target Long Covid treatments

A new partnership between PrecisionLife in Oxford and Sano Genetics in Cambridge will help advance researchers’ understanding of the drivers of Long COVID – identifying at-risk patients and potential drug targets.

PrecisionLife is a global techbio company using its deep insights into disease biology and patient stratification to drive precision medicine in chronic diseases.

Sano is a genetic research platform enabling patients to participate in ethical research projects, to advance understanding of the long-term effects of coronavirus infection. 

The project will include analysis of Sano Genetics’ data from 3,000 UK adults suffering from Long COVID symptoms using PrecisionLife’s proprietary combinatorial analytics platform to identify risk-factors and potential drug targets. 

It is estimated that 5-30 per cent of Covid patients will go on to have long-term complications and, with over 500 million people worldwide confirmed as having been infected, the need for better diagnostics and treatments is large.

PrecisionLife’s combinatorial analytics platform is uniquely able to identify the drivers of complex disease biology at an unprecedented level of resolution.

This new study aims to advance researchers’ understanding of why some people, even those with mild original COVID infections, are at risk of developing debilitating long COVID symptoms. It also aims to discover novel drug targets and drug repositioning candidates with associated patient stratification biomarkers that could lead to new treatments to help long COVID sufferers.

Sano Genetics will provide access to its Long COVID patient population dataset to PrecisionLife for analysis. Sano’s research participants always remain in full control of their data and can select which research programmes they want to take part in on a case-by-case basis.

In 2021 Sano Genetics received support via UK Government funding body Innovate UK to anonymously gather genomic DNA data and patient reported outcomes from 3,000 UK adults suffering from Long COVID symptoms. 

One of the key goals of the study is to ensure that the population demographics of the UK are reflected in the data so that the research outcomes are both accurate and representative. 

Early in the pandemic, PrecisionLife delivered world leading insights into COVID-19, being the first to identify 68 genes that were associated with serious disease and hospitalisation in COVID-19 patients and confirming the predicted severe disease risk factors in a clinical dataset. 

Since then, over 70 per cent of these gene targets have been independently validated by other research projects around the world. In addition, PrecisionLife revealed opportunities for 29 approved drugs to be repurposed as COVID-19 treatments targeting the associated genes, 13 of which are being evaluated in clinical trials with COVID-19 patients. 

Dr Patrick Short, CEO and co-founder of Sano Genetics, said: “Learning to live with COVID and manage its health consequences has long term public health and economic implications. 

“An estimated 1.7 million people in the UK have reported experiences of Long COVID with symptoms lasting longer than four weeks. 

“Understanding how our genetics influence our response to COVID-19 is key to better protecting vulnerable people and developing effective treatments. PrecisionLife’s analysis of Sano Genetics’ data will enable this deep biological understanding.”

Dr Steve Gardner, CEO of PrecisionLife, added: “Long COVID is a major public health issue. Most sufferers have no clear path for engaging with the healthcare system as diagnosis is uncertain and the complex symptoms and causes of the disease are not yet fully understood.

“In our 2020 study we noted a range of cardiovascular, immunological, and neurological changes in COVID-19 patients and want to understand whether these are transient or permanent. 

“We are confident that this study into the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection, working in partnership with Sano Genetics, will deliver valuable insights to enable a better understanding of Long COVID vulnerabilities and ultimately ensure that personalised treatments are directed towards those patients that need them most.”

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