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Leveraging Insights from Genetics to Understand the Roots of Crohn’s Disease

Researchers at the Broad Institute are leading an investigation to determine how Crohn’s disease develops and identify potential therapies.

In the U.S., 201 of every 100,000 individuals suffer from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes symptoms like persistent diarrhea, internal bleeding, and recurring pain. Since Crohn’s disease is caused by a combination of factors that can differ from person to person, researchers around the world are investigating numerous environmental, genetic, immune, and bacterial factors that may be to blame.

In Boston, a trailblazing group of researchers at the Broad Institute are leading the way towards understanding the genetic architecture underlying the disease. Seeking to support patient-centered efforts to find cures for Crohn’s disease, Helmsley has held a longstanding partnership with the Broad Institute. This year, Helmsley has provided renewed support with a $9 million grant that empowers researchers to leverage profound insights from genetics to develop safe and effective therapeutics that may one day ease the suffering of Crohn’s disease patients worldwide.

The new Helmsley grant will help gastroenterologist Ramnik Xavier and his team to build upon their pioneering research that resulted in the identification of specific genes linked to Crohn’s disease. Ultimately, two of the identified genes led to compounds being studied in drug development projects with pharmaceutical partners.

The researchers at the Broad Institute hope to continue examining Crohn’s disease-associated genes and further uncover the genetic variants that lead to susceptibility or protection from the disease. Xavier and his team will also devote time to advancing their research by continuing to develop assays to screen molecules for potential therapies, study the microbiome, and compose a map of each cell in the gut in both healthy individuals and IBD patients.

Photo credit: Juliana Sohn

Through this partnership with the Broad Institute, Helmsley continues to support dedicated investigators who approach their research with a sense of urgency that keeps patients at the center of their work. Along with his colleagues, Ramnik Xavier exemplifies this mindset, stating, “By starting with patients and ending with patients, we’re trying to come up with a better roadmap to making therapeutics.”

Learn more in a Q&A with the Broad Institute’s Ramnik Xavier.