New Pandemic Sciences Centre, Alliances on Health, New Products

June 1, 2021

June 1, 2021 | University of Oxford launches a new Pandemic Sciences Centre, Sema4 partners with AdventHealth, IQVIA reports on R&D trends, American Heart Association allies with Hitachi Vantara, Biogen and Ginkgo pursue a novel gene therapy manufacturing platform, and new products from TripleBlind, Twist Bioscience.


The University of Oxford is launching of a new center of global research collaboration and excellence, the Pandemic Sciences Centre. The Centre’s mission will be to ensure that the world is better equipped to create global, and equitable science-driven solutions to prepare for, identify, and counter future pandemic threats. Within Oxford, the center will draw together academics and experts from across its research and innovation community, including from infectious diseases, vaccinology, immunology, structural biology, diagnostics, drug discovery, clinical trials, data science, public health, and social and political sciences. Nationally and internationally, the Centre will foster a multisectoral approach and invest in agile platforms and partnerships. The center will focus on three core themes: accelerating understanding and insights: generating actionable knowledge and data (from pathogens through to patients) in near 'real-time' and making this globally accessible; translating research into real-world solutions: creating and deploying effective, acceptable and equitable health technologies, including digital tools, diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines; and enhancing confidence, trust and impact:  identifying ways to strengthen societal and political engagement, resilience, and responsiveness. Press Release.

The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science has released a new report: Global Trends in R&D: Overview Through 2020. Despite significant disruption and reprioritization of clinical trial activity during 2020 due to COVID-19, R&D activity levels remained at historically high levels, driven by new funding and strategic transactions, especially within oncology, according to the report. The institute found that clinical development productivity increased slightly in 2020 but remains at historically low levels because of rising trial durations, complexity of disease targets and their associated trial protocol designs, and declining success rates, late-stage pipeline continued to grow in 2020, and funding for early- and late-stage R&D increased significantly in 2020, unaffected by the disruptions of COVID-19. The full version of the report, including a detailed description of the methodology, is available at The study was produced independently as a public service, without industry or government funding. Press release.

AdventHealth and Sema4 have announced a wide-ranging collaboration that builds upon the current AdventHealth Genomics and Personalized Health Program to provide new research insights and to prevent, detect and treat disease in their patients. Initially, AdventHealth and Sema4 will focus on accelerating research in AdventHealth’s Orlando-area network, which includes more than 20 hospitals and emergency departments, and accounts for more than two million patient visits annually. AdventHealth and Sema4 will conduct data structuring and curation of the combined genomic and clinical data, which, along with Sema4 investigative tools, will allow clinicians and scientists to advance research and discovery. The collaboration will use Centrellis, Sema4’s secure, holistic cloud-based health intelligence platform, in this effort. Sema4 will apply artificial intelligence tools to structure and integrate the longitudinal patient data with the molecular testing data, developing a data set and disease network models that assist in predicting the development of disease and response to treatments. Press release.

Fluidigm Corporation has joined the FLAMIN-GO Project consortium of academic and industry leaders in rheumatology, autoimmune disease research, and drug discovery and development to create an organ-on-a-chip solution toward personalized care and improved outcomes for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. RA is a significant public health problem as it can lead to permanent disability. To gain insights into this disease, FLAMIN-GO Project scientists are working to develop a personalized, next-generation synovia-on-chip (SoC) that mimics the biologic complexity existing inside the rheumatic joint. To assist consortium researchers, Fluidigm is providing training, support, and equipment to perform Imaging Mass Cytometry (IMC) studies utilizing a Hyperion Imaging System at the University of Eastern Piedmont in Novara, Italy. IMC studies will provide critical data about patterns of protein expression among different cell types within the SoC as well as how spatial relationship among different cell types impacts their activity and response to treatment. Press release.

10x Genomics has expanded its Visium Clinical Translational Research Network (CTRN) with 30 new researchers, bringing the total to 75 members. The new researchers were selected globally and represent a number of key translational research institutes such as MD Anderson, Fred Hutch, Institut Gustave Roussy, Novo Nordisk, and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Oncology is the primary research focus for most of the members, but others work in cardiovascular research, neuroscience, fibrosis, and maternal-fetal health. As members of the Visium CTRN, researchers gain exclusive access to a collaborative, global research community dedicated to accelerating clinical translational research workflows, as well as substantial discounts and specialized support relating to the 10x Genomics Visium platform. More information.

The SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) announced the launch of a research institute and disease center that will advance regenerative medicine and introduce cellular therapies to improve patient care. Launched today at the inaugural SDCT-REMEDIS Cell Therapy Conference, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Regenerative Medicine Institute of Singapore (REMEDIS) and the SingHealth Duke-NUS Cell Therapy Centre (SDCT) will bring together multidisciplinary expertise and focus efforts in regenerative medicine research and its application for diagnostics and therapies to improve treatment outcomes for patients. Press release.

A new alliance between the American Heart Association’s Precision Medicine Platform and Hitachi Vantara, the digital infrastructure, data management, and digital solutions subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., will make the Association’s Precision Medicine Platform even more accessible to healthcare organizations for fast, efficient supercomputing data analysis research, even from a laptop computer. The Precision Medicine Platform is a cloud-based digital solution with secure, private workspaces equipped for data management and analysis, including tools for machine learning and artificial intelligence. With flexible choices for software and ready-to-run data analysis tools, the Precision Medicine Platform is ready to run at a fraction of the cost of traditional data analysis platforms. Hitachi Vantara LLC is authorized to sell licenses of the American Heart Association’s Precision Medicine Platform. Press release.

TripleBlind has created an innovative approach to data de-identification via one-way encryption that allows all data attributes to be used, even at the patient level, while eliminating any possibility of the data user learning anything about the patient’s identity. Its patented breakthroughs in advanced mathematics give healthcare organizations the ability to share PHI, health records, genomic and other data, unlocking the ability to conduct a wide range of data operations, such as data analysis, algorithm development and algorithm validation. Blind de-identification does not alter the fidelity of the data. Press release.

Twist Bioscience has launched the Twist Library Preparation Enzymatic Fragmentation Kit 2.0, a customized workflow to efficiently prepare samples that generate more accurate next-generation sequencing (NGS) results. The EF Kit 2.0 enables a streamlined workflow that combines library preparation steps into a single-tube reaction which, alongside a low chimera rate and Twist’s highly uniform target enrichment workflow, translates into high quality library preparation and NGS data. The kit is optimized for challenging NGS applications including liquid biopsy, somatic variant testing and genome-wide association studies. In addition, the kit excels in preparing samples where the amount of sample input DNA is either very limited or heavily degraded, as in the case of many banked oncology samples. Press release.

The Alliance for Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare (AAIH) has announced the enrollment of multiple new members in Q1 2021, growing the organization to nearly 50 companies across the healthcare, life science, and technology industries. Signing on to support the advancement of AI in healthcare are Amicus Therapeutics, BioSig Technologies, CancerLinq, Celeris Therapeutics, Gain Therapeutics, Google, Hub Security, Lifebit, and Roche, joining founding members that include Recursion, Insilico Medicine, Valo and Janssen, the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson. Founded in 2018, AAIH is the leading international advocacy organization for the responsible adoption and application of AI/ML technologies across the healthcare umbrella. By bringing together stakeholders from industry, government, academia, and finance, AAIH seeks to foster changes that result in the best outcomes for patients. Press release.

Biogen and Ginkgo Bioworks have announced a collaboration and license agreement to develop a novel gene therapy manufacturing platform. Together, the companies aim to redefine the industry standard for manufacturing recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based vectors. Recombinant AAV-based vectors are widely used to develop gene therapies and have the potential to treat certain neurological and neuromuscular diseases as well as other conditions across multiple therapeutic areas. Currently, manufacturing is time-consuming and expensive making it difficult to develop therapies for diseases with high dose needs and with large patient populations. Ginkgo seeks to solve these challenges by applying its mammalian cell programming platform, with the aim to improve the efficiency of AAV-producing plasmid vectors and cell lines, which could accelerate Biogen’s development of novel gene therapies. Under the terms of the agreement, Biogen will receive access to Ginkgo’s proprietary cell programming platform and capabilities. Ginkgo will use its bioengineering facilities and resources with the aim of enhancing the AAV production titers of Biogen’s gene therapy manufacturing processes. Ginkgo will receive an upfront payment of $5 million and is eligible for milestone payments up to an additional $115 million should the collaboration programs achieve certain research, developmental and commercial milestones. Press release.

Earlier this month, Ginkgo Bioworks signed a purchase agreement to acquire Dutch DNA Biotech, a company based in Utrecht, Netherlands, with a proprietary platform technology focused on the development of fungal strains and fermentation processes for the production of proteins and organic acids. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Ginkgo will acquire 100% of Dutch DNA shares via a combination of both cash and equity. In addition, certain stakeholders of Dutch DNA will also receive earn-out payments upon achievement of one or more technical and commercialization milestones. With this acquisition, Ginkgo will integrate Dutch DNA's team, assets, and operations into the broader Ginkgo platform for cell programming, and will, for the first time, expand Ginkgo operations internationally. The acquisition is expected to close in July. Press release.

Genomenon has published a new pharma report: Key Findings from the Genomic Landscape for ALS. This report describes key findings from Genomenon’s comprehensive Genomic Landscape for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and their implications for drug discovery and development. Genomic Landscapes are curated collections of all published genes and variants associated with disease causation and provide profound insight into complex disease mechanisms. By producing these datasets for all diseases, Genomenon supports researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and clinicians by enabling them to uncover more drug targets, streamline patient identification and diagnosis, and de-risk clinical trial outcomes. Constructed using ACMG clinical standards, Genomenon’s AI-driven process has curated 36 genes and approximately 2,000 genetic variants associated with ALS found across the scientific literature. This includes the accurate identification of pathogenic variants, as well as those with documented functional consequences. As an example of the depth and breadth of the data assembled, Genomenon uncovered three times more pathogenic variants in the SOD1 gene compared to ClinVar. Notably, this dataset reveals actionable data around age at onset and rate of progression of ALS—the implications of which are highly significant within clinical diagnostics and neurodegenerative drug development. Press release and full report.