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UCB collaborates in the MetaHIT Project to decipher the human metagenome


Today, UCB announced its collaboration on the Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT) project.

MetaHIT is a pioneer research project that aims to decipher the human microbiome. The research initiative is funded by an 11.4 million Euro grant within the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission, and is comprised of an international consortium of 15 institutions, including two Spanish organisations, UCB (via its Immunology Business Unit) and the Research Institute of the Vall d´Hebron Hospital (IR-HUVH).

Additionally, organizations such as the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute of the UK and Genoscope of France are also participating. The main objective of the MetaHIT Project is to characterise and determine the genetic variability of microbial communities located in the digestive tract.

This initial phase will be followed by further research to assess the functionality of genes in bacteria residing in the intestinal tract in an attempt to determine their involvement in pathologies such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The microbiome is a set of microorganisms that live “in and with” a human body, contributing to it via its genetic and biological activities and constituting what is referred to as “the human metagenome.”

According to Dr Francisco Guarner, member of the MetaHIT Project and group leader of the Physiology and Physiopathology Research Group of the IR-HUVH.

This project will provide new tools that will allow us to determine the bacterial composition of the human microflora and open up new perspectives with regard to its impact on health.” Collaboration of UCB in the MetaHIT Project UCB collaboration in MetaHIT is focused on identifying the differences between the genes present in the intestinal flora of the healthy population and those present in people who suffer from IBD.

These differences may be critical in determining a person’s response or lack of response to a particular therapy. This biomedical research project utilizes a multidisciplinary approach in order to sequence all bacterial genes.

According to Ellen Caldwell, Director of the Immunology Business Unit at UCB in Spain, “The participation of UCB in the MetaHIT Project is a demonstration of our firm commitment to fostering a greater understanding in the disease areas in which we work. Given the complexity of many medical questions confronting society today, close collaborations between the scientific community and the private sector are essential to unravel these complex issues.

Our intention is to foster innovation in basic research and therapeutics, thereby contributing to improve people’s quality of life.” The role of UCB, jointly with other public research institutions involved in this project, positions Spain as a reference point in the international biomedical research arena. This is in line with the current trend to encourage all aspects relating to research and innovation in the country. In addition, this project clearly demonstrates that a close and effective collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and public institutions is possible to in order to drive medical research, which ultimately benefits the patient.


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