MHI and AstraZeneca to screen samples for cardiovascular and diabetes genetic traits

May 13, 2015

The Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) today announced a collaboration with AstraZeneca, to search the genomes of up to 80,000 patients for genes associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, their complications and treatment outcomes. This is one of the largest such screens of its type to-date and will drive understanding of the biologic mechanisms underlying these conditions and their complications. The analysis will also uncover which genetic traits are linked to better treatment outcomes.

Under the collaboration, MHI will genotype up to 80,000 DNA samples from AstraZeneca’s extensive biobank. The samples include both tissue and blood samples which have been collected over a period of 12 years under informed consent from patients who have entered clinical trials to test cardiovascular or diabetes treatments.

MHI’s Beaulieu-Saucier Pharmacogenomics Centre will initially use an approach called genome-wide SNP analysis to identify regions of DNA that predispose to, or cause, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes or are associated with responses to treatments. They will then apply other technologies, such as next generation sequencing, to carry out full gene sequencing of areas of interest to identify new genes associated with disease, with disease complications such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetic nephropathy or retinopathy, and with treatment outcomes in terms of responsiveness to medication.

The knowledge gained from genotyping the samples will be applied to the development of new medicines tailored to treat subsets of patients with particular genetic profiles. The information will also enable a personalized healthcare approach to the use of existing treatments, which means using specific medicines to treat the patient populations which are most likely to respond.

Ruth March, Vice President, Personalised Healthcare & Biomarkers at AstraZeneca said: “This partnership has the potential to deliver an unprecedented amount of clinical and scientific information about cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. We expect to identify genes that are associated with more severe forms of disease, and those that are associated with treatment outcome. The information will help us to develop new medicines for these conditions and to target them to the patients who respond best using biomarkers and companion diagnostic tests. We’re delighted to be working with the Montreal Heart Institute who has the expertise and technological know-how to deliver such a transformational programme. Together we are taking personalised healthcare beyond its great heritage in oncology to benefit patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, Director of the Montreal Heart Institute Research Center and holder of both the Canada Research Chair in personalized and translational medicine and the Université de Montréal endowed research chair in atherosclerosis, said: “This large-scale partnership between AstraZeneca and the Montreal Heart Institute holds great potential for breakthroughs in personalized cardiovascular medicine whereby medications will be tailored to responsive patients based on their genetic profile. We at the MHI Pharmacogenomics Centre have the expertise and high-throughput genomic platforms to carry out successfully and efficiently this important research program.”

“Today’s landmark research investment is a strong testament to AstraZeneca’s commitment to world-class health sciences research right here in Canada,” said Ed Dybka, President, AstraZeneca Canada Inc. “We are proud to partner with the Montreal Heart Institute on this remarkable research journey, one that promises to unlock some of the genetic puzzles around cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which claim more lives worldwide than any other disease areas.  Finding new treatments is an urgent priority, and this genomic research holds the promise of transforming patient care through the discovery of more targeted, personalized treatments tied to a patient’s genetic profile.”

This research partnership builds on AstraZeneca’s long-standing support of Canadian health sciences leadership.  In 2014, AstraZeneca announced a $1 million investment in the Banting & Best Diabetes Centre (BBDC) to support innovative research projects and educational initiatives aimed at improving care for patients living with diabetes, as well as a $500,000 investment in FORGE AHEAD, a five-year program led by Dr. Stewart Harris at Western University that is aimed at improving diabetes care for Canada’s indigenous communities.  In 2012, AstraZeneca announced a landmark $35 million investment in the Quebec life sciences sector, partnering with the Government of Quebec to create the NEOMED Institute – a non-profit organization that will help advance leading edge life sciences research and drug development through to commercialization

According to its ‘open innovation’ approach to research and development, AstraZeneca will work with MHI to publish findings in peer-reviewed journals, contributing to broader scientific understanding of these disease conditions.

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About the Montreal Heart Institute
Founded in 1954 by Dr. Paul David, the Montreal Heart Institute constantly aims for the highest standards of excellence in the cardiovascular field through its leadership in clinical and basic research, ultra-specialized care, professional training and prevention. It is affiliated with the Université de Montréal.


About the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation
The mission of the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation is to raise and administer funds to support the Institute's priority and innovative projects and help its fight against cardiovascular disease, the number-one cause of death worldwide. Since its creation in 1977, the Foundation has donated almost $200 million to the Montreal Heart Institute.


About AstraZeneca in Personalised Healthcare
At AstraZeneca we are passionate about personalised healthcare because we believe in the benefits it can deliver. Our bold ambition is to transform patients’ lives through personalised healthcare, ensuring that innovative treatments are matched to those patients who will benefit most. You can see this approach reflected in our pipeline, where 80% of drug projects have a personalised healthcare approach.


About AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. AstraZeneca’s Canadian headquarters are located in Mississauga, Ontario. For more information please visit:


Lise Plante, MBA
Director of Communications
Montreal Heart Institute Foundation
Tél. : 514-376-3330, ext. 3898 | | @ICMtl |


Carlo Mastrangelo
Director, Corporate Communications
AstraZeneca Canada Inc.
Human Resources & Communications | Corporate Communications
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