Although genetic studies have been critically important for the identification of therapeutic targets in Mendelian disorders, genetic approaches aiming to identify targets for common, complex diseases have traditionally had much more limited success. However, during the past year, a novel genetic approach - genome-wide association (GWA) - has demonstrated its potential to identify common genetic variants associated with complex diseases such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. Here, we highlight some of these recent successes, and discuss the potential for GWA studies to identify novel therapeutic targets and genetic biomarkers that will be useful for drug discovery, patient selection and stratification in common diseases.
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