Gene linked to doubling the risk of death due to COVID-19 identified using technology exclusively licensed to Nucleome Therapeutics

Gene linked to doubling the risk of death due to COVID-19 identified using technology exclusively licensed to Nucleome Therapeutics

Study conducted by Nucleome’s academic founders at the University of Oxford published in
Nature Genetics

Oxford, UK, 5th November 2021 – Nucleome Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that is decoding the dark matter of the human genome to uncover novel ways to treat disease, is pleased to note that the Company’s academic founders from the University of Oxford have published a paper in Nature Genetics identifying a gene that potentially doubles the risk of death from COVID-19.

The technology used to identify this gene has been exclusively licensed to Nucleome, highlighting the competitive advantage of Nucleome’s platform in the discovery of genetic targets for innovative precision medicine development.

Since the start of the pandemic, research teams around the world have been searching for genetic signals in our genome that contribute to the susceptibility and severity of individuals’ response to COVID-19. Previous work already identified a stretch of DNA on chromosome 3 which doubled the risk of adults under 65 of dying from COVID-19. However, scientists did not know how this genetic signal worked to increase the risk, nor the exact genetic change that was responsible.

Sixty percent of people with South Asian ancestry carry this high-risk genetic signal, compared with one in six people of European ancestry, partly explaining the excess deaths seen in some UK communities and the impact of COVID-19 in the Indian subcontinent.

The researchers used Nucleome’s platform, which combines machine learning and novel ultra-resolution 3D genome analysis method to identify the causative genetic variant, the cell types involved and the effector gene, leading them to identify the probable gene responsible, called LZTFL1.

Prof James Davies, Academic Founder of Nucleome Therapeutics and co-lead of the study, said: “The genetic signal conferring increased risk was located within what we call the dark matter of the genome. This dark genome regulates cell type-specific gene expression and is still largely uncharted. Using Nucleome’s Micro-Capture-C technique we were able to pinpoint the gene. A higher level of LZRFL1 likely prevents the cells lining the airways and the lungs from fighting the virus properly, but importantly it doesn’t affect the immune system, so people carrying this version are likely to particularly benefit from vaccination.

Dr Danuta Jeziorska, Chief Executive Officer & Founder of Nucleome, said: “In addition to shedding light on the biological mechanism of COVID-19, which is of highest importance in the current pandemic, this study also represents significant validation of Nucleome’s platform in identifying disease drivers by decoding the genetic variants located in the dark genome. This publication demonstrates that our platform can be applied to cell types and therapeutic areas beyond Nucleome’s focus on autoimmune diseases and lymphocytes, opening the door to potential discovery partnerships consistent with our mission of unlocking the dark genome to transform the lives of patients through precision medicine.”

The full paper ‘Identification of LZTFL1 as a candidate effector gene at a COVID-19 risk locus
can be found here.

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About Nucleome Therapeutics

Nucleome Therapeutics is decoding the dark matter of the human genome to uncover novel ways to treat disease. The dark genome holds more than 90% of disease-linked genetic variants whose value remains untapped, representing a significant opportunity for drug discovery and development. We have the unique ability to link these variants to gene function and map disease pathways. Our world-leading cell type-specific platform creates ultra-high resolution 3D genome structure maps and enables variant functional validation at scale in primary cell types. This will enable us to discover and develop first-in-class precision medicines. The initial focus of the company is on lymphocytes and related autoimmune disease. Our ambition is to build a robust pipeline of drug assets, with corresponding biomarkers. Nucleome Therapeutics was founded by leading experts in gene regulation from the University of Oxford and backed by investment from Oxford Sciences Enterprises.
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Nucleome Therapeutics
Dr Danuta Jeziorska, Chief Executive Officer & Founder

Consilium Strategic Communications
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