February News and Product Briefs

March 3, 2015

News Briefs 

Fluoresentric received the “Most Promising Company” award at this month’s Molecular Med Tri-Con 2015, after coming in first place among presenters pitching their company’s value proposition to a panel of industry leaders at the Inaugural Swimming with the Sharks competition. (For more on the conference, see “Reporter’s Notebook: Molecular Medicine Tri Conference 2015.”) Presenters at the competition were judged on clinical utility, investor readiness, and healthcare impact. Fluorosentric presented its XCR technology for nucleic acid amplification, designed to amplify and detect DNA and RNA targets within approximately five minutes. XCR instruments are portable, highly multiplexed, and feature simple sample prep with low cost reagents. Press release 

The Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) released an updated position statement on direct-to-consumer genetic testing. AMP supports the sale of clinically meaningful tests directly to the public, as long as certain conditions are met. AMP opposes direct access to genetic tests that are performed for the purpose of selling additional health‐related products or services and do not provide clinically meaningful or actionable information. For recreational or novelty genetic testing, such as ancestry testing, AMP maintains a neutral position. The position statement comes shortly after 23andMe received the first-ever FDA approval for a direct-to-consumer genetic test. (See, “23andMe Receives FDA Authorization, Will Not Share Test Results.”) The full AMP position statement is available online. 

Peter D. Meldrum, President and CEO of Myriad Genetics, notified the company of his decision to retire at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2015. The decision comes shortly after Myriad announced that it would stop fighting court battles to prevent competitors from testing for BRCA mutations that confer a high risk of breast cancer. (See, “Humbled Myriad Caves on BRCA Patents.”) Myriad’s board of directors has unanimously elected Mark C. Capone, currently president of Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc., as Mr. Meldrum's successor. Press release 

Mount Sinai Health System has recruited Dr. Alison Goate as the founding Director of the new Ronald M. Loeb Center for Alzheimer’s Disease, established by a recent $15 million gift. Dr. Goate has identified key gene mutations linked to the heritable risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and led a team of researchers at Washington University, St. Louis, that performed the largest ever genome-wide association study of protein markers found in cerebrospinal fluid. In her new role at Mount Sinai, Dr. Goate will recruit talent in areas such as induced pluripotent stem cells, and establish ties between the Center and basic and clinical researchers across the Mount Sinai Health System, including Eric Schadt’s team at the Icahn Institute for Genomics & Multiscale Biology. The team at the Ronald M. Loeb Center will have access to new MRI and PET technology and the Minerva supercomputer, the largest supercomputer ever constructed for the purpose of genomic investigation. Press release 

Johnson & Johnson Innovation announced the opening of a 30,000-square foot JLABS incubator in South San Francisco. The new JLABS site can accommodate up to 50 startups working in the fields of biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and consumer and digital health. The first ten resident startups for JLABS @South San Francisco have been selected, among them the five winners of the JLABS Quick Fire Challenge, and include companies working in gene therapy, chimeric antigen receptors, microbiome-based products and non-invasive diagnostics. The JLABS network now hosts more than 80 companies across two sites in San Francisco, one in San Diego, and one in Boston, with an additional Houston site planned for 2016. Press release 

DNAnexus announced that the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia is now using DNAnexus as the bioinformatics platform underlying many of its genomics-based research initiatives. The Institute will also utilize DNAnexus to support its push to offer commercial genome sequencing services. After purchasing an Illumina HiSeq X Ten system last year, the Garvan Institute now has the capability to sequence 150 whole human genomes every three days. Using the DNAnexus platform will allow the Institute to cope with this volume of data without building out their local infrastructure. Press release 

Lifecode, a next-generation-sequencing based molecular diagnostics company, received accreditation from the College of American Pathologists. Lifecode also announced that it had raised a previously undisclosed $20.5 million A-Round led by Sequoia Capital, The Mayo Clinic, and Mayo Ventures. Lifecode is the new incarnation of Silicon Valley Biosystems, which originally offered a diagnostic service based on in silico interpretation of genomic data. (See, “SV Bio Relaunched as Lifecode, Maker of LDTs.”) Press release 

Linguamatics is making the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) data available with its I2E text analytics platform. The new service will be offered on the cloud through the I2E OnDemand platform, which provides access to a wide variety of data such as MEDLINE, FDA Drug Labels, Patents, ClinicalTrials.gov, PubMed Central, and NIH grants. The addition of OMIM allows users to reveal genetic associations for unusual clinical case presentations or phenotypes, or search for potential targets for a particular therapeutic area. Access to OMIM through I2E will also let users pull out relationships (e.g. between genes and phenotypes) from both structured data within the OMIM record, and unstructured text fields. Press release 

Station X announced that researchers can now utilize the open-access data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) through the company’s cloud-based GenePool platform. The GenePool software-as-a-service platform provides a curated repository for storing, cataloging and accessing cancer genome sequence, alignment, sequence variation, expression, copy number and structural variation information from the TCGA consortium. Press release 

N-of-One, Inc., became a Silver Partner in Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Specialized program. As a Silver Level member, N-of-One will integrate access to its clinical interpretation solutions with the Oracle Health Sciences Translational Research Center, which aggregates omics data and data from electronic health records to identify biomarkers for drug discovery and clinical development. Users of Oracle’s TRC can now use N-of-One’s clinical interpretation and analysis of next-generation sequencing and companion diagnostic test results in cancer cases for patient-specific profiles. Press release 

New Products 

Premaitha Health received CE mark approval for the IONA test, the first CE-marked in vitro diagnostic product for non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). Premaitha is now the only company authorized by the European Regulatory agencies to sell a product that allows laboratories to offer NIPT services. Previously, pregnant women in Europe could only access NIPT via the private testing market provided by service laboratories, which involves sending a blood sample to a lab in the USA or China. The IONA test uses next-generation sequencing of cell-free fetal DNA to estimate the risk of a fetus having Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome, and features a standardised workflow that can quickly be implemented into clinical laboratories. Press release 

RainDance Technologies launched the ThunderBolts Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) Target Enrichment System. The ThunderBolts System allows researchers to rapidly detect and analyze somatic mutations from liquid biopsy samples (circulating tumor DNA) or FFPE (formalin-fixed Paraffin-Embedded) tissue samples. It features pre-validated gene panels for profiling solid tumors and hematological cancers, as well as options to create custom gene panels. The ThunderBolts System detects tumor mutations with frequencies as low as one percent, starting with as little as 10 ng of amplifiable DNA. Press release 

Qlucore launched Qlucore Omics Explorer 3.1, the latest version of its data analysis software. Qlucore Omics Explorer 3.1 introduces a well defined open interface to R, letting users perform a broader range of statistical tests. The program will be shipped with two R scripts supporting tests based on Limma and Wilcoxon methods. Bioinformaticians will be able to do script development in R, while researchers can select scripts from a dropdown box once they’ve been added. Press release 

SeekQuence announced the addition of new antibody products content into its SeekProducts product offering, totaling over 2.48 million antibody products, plus over 1.37 million antibody application images, combined with new search and browse capabilities. The newly added products and images will help researchers to prioritize antibodies for their experiments, compare products and their application images head-to-head, identify products used for a specific research area, and filter products based on supplier information. Press release 

Core Informatics released Core Collaboration, a private platform for information sharing. Core Collaboration allows sponsors and partners to interact in real time in a configurable environment that supports any partnership model. Multiple secure Collaboration Spaces can be created or decommissioned within hours, and pre-populated with the appropriate products and applications. Core Collaboration runs on Platform for Science, a software-as-a-service offering including fully integrated LIMS, ELN, Core Collaboration and SDMS for customers engaged in all phases of scientific product development. Platform for Science provides RESTful APIs that let clients and application developers integrate with existing software applications and instrumentation. Press release 

LifeMap Sciences, a subsidiary of BioTime, announced a partnership agreement with Advaita Corporation, which develops and sells iPathwayGuide, a web-based pathway analysis platform that identifies mechanisms of action and potential drug targets directly from gene-expression experiments. iPathwayGuide will be integrated into LifeMap’s GeneCards database of human genes, and offered to GeneCards’ large user base of life scientists. LifeMap Sciences also announced the release of GeneAnalytics v1.1, a gene set analysis tool that contextualizes RNAseq and microarray-derived gene expression patterns and function signatures. A key feature included in the updated GeneAnalytics is the presentation of known disease causative mutations, to prioritize variants that may be linked to diseases of interest. Press release