Ovation and DNAnexus Present at the 2nd Precision Medicine in IBD Summit

This blog was a collaborative effort between Ovation and DNAnexus.

On March 20th, Ovation and DNAnexus had the honor of hosting a luncheon presentation, “Harnessing The Power of Multiomics to Advance IBD Drug Discovery ” at the 2nd Precision Medicine in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Summit. Barry Wark, PhD, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Ovation, alongside Nirav Amin, PhD, Director of Solutions Science at DNAnexus, showcased how integrating Ovation’s comprehensive multiomics data with the advanced capabilities of the DNAnexus platform streamlines analysis and reduces time-to-insight for IBD research.

How Ovation Helps Accelerate and De-risk IBD Drug Discovery and Development

Ovation kicked off the presentation by discussing the vital role of human omics data in elevating drug discovery efficacy and diminishing the risks and costs associated with R&D failures. More than ever before, genomic and multiomic data is being applied to drug discovery and development, as using human omics data to select the best targets and identify biomarkers has markedly impacted the success rates in developing new therapeutics.

This has been demonstrated in the realm of IBD therapy with the emergence of TL1A inhibitors, notably the Prometheus Biosciences lead asset PRA-023, which catalyzed the company’s acquisition by Merck for a staggering $10.8 billion. Dr. Stephen Targan, co-founder of Prometheus and executive director at Cedars-Sinai, has consistently highlighted how large-scale, biobank-sourced multiomics data were critical to PRA-023’s success. During his keynote address at the Crohn’s & Colitis Congress, Dr. Targan elucidated that the journey to PRA-023—a journey spanning over twenty years of research—could have been dramatically shortened to a few years leveraging the advanced omics insights currently at their disposal. This narrative not only showcases the transformative impact of multiomics data but also sets a precedent for accelerating drug discovery timelines through such innovative approaches. 

The focus of Ovation and DNAnexus’ presentation showcased how multiomics data assets combined with a powerful analytical platform solution can drive IBD target discovery and patient stratification to achieve similar results. Dr. Wark explained that the first step is acquiring high-value data that meets all the necessary requirements for IBD drug discovery: detailed clinical profiles, diverse populations, high volume, and multiple omics layers.


Ovation generates high-value omics data to strengthen and de-risk drug discovery by meeting all these crucial data requirements. Each patient in Ovation’s diverse cohort includes whole genome and RNA sequencing on diseased and normal tissues, paired with longitudinal clinical data. This dataset not only empowers a granular understanding of IBD’s molecular landscape but also aids in delineating distinct disease subtypes and biomarkers.


Dr. Wark highlighted a differential gene expression analysis within Ovation’s initial cohort of 211 patients, findings that were featured in a poster at the 2024 Crohn’s & Colitis Congress. Despite the relatively modest size of this cohort, the analysis yielded significant insights, pinpointing genes that behave differently in tissues affected by severe versus mild IBD. The congruence of these findings with existing research reinforces their validity, while the discovery of promising new genetic targets, such as PFKFB3, paves the way for deeper investigations. This study, focusing on a small yet impactful segment of Ovation’s extensive biobank, which encompasses samples from approximately 5,100 individuals with both diseased and normal tissues, underscores the depth and potential of Ovation’s data.

slide from presentation

Powering Therapeutic Development Successes with the DNAnexus Precision Health Data Cloud

Of course, data alone does not possess inherent value; researchers must be able to convert data into analytics and insights. DNAnexus, the provider of the Precision Health Data Cloud, offers a platform that harnesses the power of multiomics data to fuel drug discovery and development.

Following Dr. Wark’s overview of Ovation’s critical work, Dr. Amin provided an overview of DNAnexus and how the synergy between Ovation’s specialized IBD clinico-omics data and DNAnexus’s analytical prowess empowers biopharma companies across the drug development value chain.

Dr. Amin first demonstrated how using a secure, scalable analysis environment preloaded with purpose-built analytical tools enables researchers to seamlessly integrate, analyze, and interpret complex biological data sets. This integration facilitates a deeper understanding of disease mechanisms, accelerates the identification of therapeutic targets, and enhances the stratification of patient populations.

DNAnexus platform cohort builder showcasing Ovation data



Diving deeper into the functional possibilities of the DNAnexus platform, Dr. Amin went on to discuss the advanced capabilities for cohort browsing, enabling researchers to navigate and analyze Ovation’s extensive IBD omics data efficiently. He described how scientists can sift through vast datasets to identify specific patient cohorts based on detailed clinical profiles, genomic information, and disease subtypes. This functionality, he said, is crucial for pinpointing relevant patient groups for in-depth studies, facilitating targeted analysis and hypothesis testing. For instance, researchers can filter cohorts to study only those patients with severe ulcerative colitis or identify specific genetic markers across different IBD populations. This nuanced level of data interrogation helps streamline the research process, from initial exploration to deep, data-driven insights, paving the way for more focused and effective therapeutic development strategies in IBD. (*Note: during the Q&A of the session, audience members were interested to learn how easy it is for non-computational users to quickly query the dataset to determine if proper cohorts can be identified in the dataset).


Equally important to the right analytical tools are tools that foster an environment of collaboration, one that bridges the gap between non-programming scientists, like many biologists, and coding experts, such as data scientists and bioinformaticians. This collaborative interface is particularly valuable in multi-disciplinary fields like IBD research, where integrating biological insights with computational analysis is crucial. The DNAnexus platform provides intuitive tools and a user-friendly interface that allow biologists to articulate their research needs and explore data visually, without needing to write code. Concurrently, data scientists and bioinformaticians can delve into more complex data analysis, leveraging the platform’s robust computational capabilities at the command line.


This synergy enables a dynamic exchange of ideas and findings, where biologists can pose questions and receive data-driven answers, while bioinformaticians can provide actionable insights that are grounded in biological relevance. Through this collaborative ecosystem, DNAnexus enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of research teams, facilitating a cohesive approach to uncovering new insights in IBD research and beyond.

Empowering Biopharma Across the Value Chain

The presenters concluded the presentation by emphasizing how the right data coupled with the right tools and infrastructure addresses critical pain points in the drug discovery and development process, such as the need for precise biomarker identification, effective patient stratification, rapid translation of research findings, and maintained security and regulatory compliance. By providing valuable genetic and molecular profiles of patients afflicted with IBD that have been pre-processed, ingested, and paired with a secure data management and analysis platform, DNAnexus and Ovation deliver rapid value to researchers by reducing time-to-insight.

Biopharma researchers can learn more about how Ovation and DNAnexus are working together to help life sciences companies drive innovation for IBD drug discovery and development by viewing our combined solution brief. Contact the Ovation team or DNAnexus team to set up an expert consultation where you can better understand how this integrated solution can equip your team with the tools necessary to uncover novel insights in the treatment of IBD and see the platform and data in action.

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