Integrated Future: GeneInsight’s New Home At Sunquest

March 6, 2017

By Allison Proffitt 

March 6, 2017 | Last April, Sunquest Information Systems completed its purchase of GeneInsight, a data workflow pipeline born in the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine at Partners Healthcare.

Heidi Rehm, Director of the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine, Partners Healthcare Center for Personalized Genetic Medicine (PCPGM) in Boston, and Sandy Aronson, Executive Director of IT of PCPGM, started building GeneInsight for their own genomic information management needs in 2005. In 2013, the platform won a Bio-IT World Best Practices Award.

At the Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference* last week, Bio-IT World had the chance to sit down with Chris Callahan, now General Manager for GeneInsight and hear how it is fitting into its new home.

Sunquest Information Systems is a large laboratory information systems company with 2,000 customers around the world. Sunquest was acquired by Roper Technologies in 2012 for approximately $1.4 billion. Since 2014, Roper has added five companies to the laboratory diagnostic informatics group: Data Innovations (acquired in 2015); Atlas Medical (2015); Clinisys (2016); GeneInsight (2016) and UNIConnect (2016). Its legacy business is large, clinical pathology and anatomical laboratories in hospitals, Callahan said.

For clinical pathology, scale is important, Callahan explained—moving as many samples through the lab as possible. Configurability is less needed. Sunquest deployments can take a year, he told us.

But in molecular and genetic testing, systems need to be nimble: quickly deployed, easily configured. Sunquest knew it needed more agile solutions for these customers, Callahan said, and started searching for both "wet bench" and "dry bench" systems.

GeneInsight is the chosen "dry bench" solution. For 18 months Sunquest had a joint venture with the GeneInsight group at Partners, working closely with Rehm and Aaronson. When the acquisition was complete in April, 15 GeneInsight employees came to Sunquest.

At Partners, the LMM was GeneInsight's primary customer, Callahan explained. The product had three other early adopters, but was designed to serve LMM's needs in the rare disease space. Sunquest has since invested in "generalizing" the product, he said, adding significant oncology capability, and hiring additional developers and customer services professionals.

LMM continues to be GeneInsight's biggest customer—the two groups have a ten-year collaboration agreement—but since April Sunquest has already signed 14 additional GeneInsight customers.

It's been great working with Rehm and Aaronson, Callahan said. “They are passionate ambassadors for GeneInsight.”

Integrated Workflow

To meet the needs of what Callahan calls the "wet bench workflow", Sunquest went through a lengthy due diligence process on seven different candidate companies. The final acquisition was announced last November; Sunquest acquired UNIConnect, a small company based in Salt Lake City.

UNIConnect has what Callahan calls a "tremendous technology platform" for managing wet lab workflow: accessioning a sample, tracking it, managing inventory. The general steps are among the same ones Sunquest's legacy product manages. But UNIConnect lets labs customize workflows.

UNIConnect includes a host of pre-packaged workflows for molecular laboratory tests like FISH, forensic tests, pharmacology and many more. But the company's strength wasn't in a toolset. Lots of laboratory information management systems companies will launch a custom development program for you and build you what you, Callahan said. But smaller molecular labs don't have the time or the money for that.

"UNIConnect has a built a platform that allows domain expert to do the development," Callahan explained. "It's unlike anything we've ever seen."

UNIConnect is already deployed at 23 labs, and its team of 15 joined Sunquest.

As the general manager for the business group housing the two new additions, Callahan's first priority is integration. Any small to medium sized molecular or genetic testing lab would be a potential client. The UNIConnect solution would be appropriate for all of them, and the GeneInsight data management platform would be a potential next step for the genetic testing labs.

Phase one of integration is already underway and is being piloted at one site. Callahan believes the integration will be complete by May.

*Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference, San Francisco, February 20-24, 2017