Illumina Venture Labs Now Operational, Oxford Nanopore Expands Pilot Program, New Chief Portfolio Officer at Pistoia Alliance, More

January 31, 2024

By Bio-IT World Team 

January 31, 2024 | Illumina Ventures Labs is now operational and finalizing agreements with several startup companies; Oxford Nanopore Technologies and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust have successfully completed a pilot program meant to deliver a respiratory metagenomics service with an integrated respiratory infection and biosecurity application; The Pistoia Alliance has appointed Dr. Christian Baber as its new Chief Portfolio Officer; more. 


Researchers from Genomics England, NHS England, Queen Mary University of London, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, and the University of Westminster published findings in Nature Medicine revealing precision medicine insights for oncology samples from the 100,000 Genomes Cancer Programme. The researchers linked whole genome sequencing to patient clinical data including diagnoses, treatment regimens, and cause of death. These datasets, “demonstrated the utility of linking genomic and real-world clinical data to enable survival analyses to identify cancer genes that affect prognosis and advance our understanding of how cancer genomics impacts patient outcomes,” the authors write. DOI: 10.1038/s41591-023-02682-0 

Illumina Ventures Labs is now operational and finalizing agreements with several startup companies. Illumina Ventures Labs is part of Illumina Ventures, the premier genomics and precision health venture firm supporting early-stage companies transforming healthcare and our world. With its extensive sequencing capabilities and state-of-the-art life science technologies from Illumina and Illumina Ventures’ portfolio companies, Illumina Ventures Labs is well positioned to enable early-stage companies to accelerate the time needed to reach their next value inflection point. Press release

Oxford Nanopore Technologies announced the completion and expansion of a successful pilot program lead by a collaboration from across the genomics sector to deliver a respiratory metagenomics service with an integrated respiratory infection and biosecurity application. With a visit to the program at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT) by the Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, the government announced the funding to expand sequencing capabilities across a consortium of NHS hospital sites. This world-first program combines effective infectious disease management with rapid emerging pathogen detection and notification. Press release.  

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Open Targets, and their collaborators pooled together data from 930 cancer cell lines. They then used machine learning methods to find the drug targets that show the most promise for developing new treatments, and the patients who would most benefit from such treatments. This involved assessing the occurrence of these targets in actual patient tumors and linking them to specific biological markers and genetic and molecular features found in the tumors. The findings underscore the importance of tailoring treatments to the unique characteristics of each cancer, promising more personalized care for patients with fewer side effects in the future. Press release

The Pistoia Alliance has appointed Dr. Christian Baber as its new Chief Portfolio Officer. Dr. Baber brings 30 years’ industry expertise, including experience of leading both R&D and technology divisions for global pharmaceutical organizations focused on informatics and predictive modelling for drug discovery. Dr. Baber has worked with the Pistoia Alliance for more than 15 years, including four years as a board director. His varied background working with startups up to large pharma—including Neurocrine, Shire, Takeda, and Janssen—equips him to effectively represent and support the diverse members of the Pistoia Alliance. As Chief Portfolio Officer, Dr. Baber will oversee the progression of the current portfolio of projects and communities, ensuring they continue to deliver tangible outcomes that drive industry change and better outcomes for patients. Press release.  

The Pistoia Alliance has also published its Identification of Medicinal Products (IDMP) Ontology 1.0 under an open-source license. The Pistoia Alliance plans to support the implementation of IDMP-O across the pharmaceutical sector and is calling for pharma, technology companies, health authorities, and regulators to register interest in dedicated training programs on integrating IDMP-O into workflows. The ontology is already in active implementation at several companies, and was co-developed under the Alliance umbrella by 11 organizations: Bayer, Novartis, GSK, Roche, Merck KGaA, Boehringer Ingelheim, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Amgen, AbbVie, and Pfizer. Contributing project partners also include the EDM Council, ACCURIDS, OSTHUS and Chemantics. Press release.

Twist announced the expansion of Twist Express Genes, a new leading gene synthesis service with an order-to-shipping turnaround starting at five business days, to include larger DNA preparations up to 1 milligram. The Express Genes offering, initially launched in November 2023, now extends to larger midiprep (10μg to 100 μg) and maxiprep (100μg to 1mg) DNA preparations. As with Twist standard speed Clonal Genes, all Twist Express Genes are NGS-verified as clonally perfect. Press release

Verisense launched the Verisense Smart Watch, a participant friendly smart watch that provides research-grade data at less than one-tenth the cost of comparable solutions. The Verisense Smart Watch will also become the default data collection device for the Digital Health Panel, Verisense Health’s end-to-end data collection infrastructure. Press release

Phastar has announced the launch of Stats Helpdesk, a new initiative designed to provide biotech companies with free access to its team of expert statisticians. The Stats Helpdesk initiative offers essential support and guidance tailored to address the statistical questions and challenges facing biotech companies. The Stats Helpdesk also functions as a platform for fostering knowledge exchange, enabling biotech organizations to capitalize on the expertise offered by the Phastar team to enhance their statistical capabilities and improve their overall statistical proficiency. Press release

DNAnexus and TMA Precision Health announced a collaboration to advance basic and translational research for patients who have a rare disease. As part of the agreement, qualified researchers will be able to use the DNAnexus Precision Health Data Cloud and analysis tools to access and explore TMA’s high-quality whole genome sequencing data and associated longitudinal medical records. The collaboration will help scientists gain important translational research insights that can improve diagnostic test selection and treatment options for patients with rare disorders. Press release

AtlasXomics and EpiCypher have partnered to develop CUT&Tag kits and assay services for spatial epigenomics applications. These assays will be developed on AtlasXomics' DBiT-seq platform using CUT&Tag reagents and antibodies from EpiCypher, expanding the spatial 'omics toolbox to histone post translational modifications (PTMs), transcription factors, and other chromatin regulators. Their long-term goal is to optimize spatial CUT&Tag for formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples, thereby greatly enhancing the versatility of these assays for clinical applications. Press release

CN Bio and Altis Biosystems have announced a strategic partnership. Through this partnership, Altis’ human RepliGut Planar-Jejunum model will be integrated with CN Bio’s PhysioMimix Liver-on-a-chip to create a primary human microphysiological system (MPS), with inter-organ communication to mimic the oral drug administration route. Harnessing both companies’ organ-specific expertise, the MPS provides preclinical researchers with a robust and reliable Gut/Liver model for enhancing the in vitro to in vivo translatability of oral bioavailability studies. Press release

RagaAI—an AI testing platform founded by ex-NVIDIA team members—has successfully closed a $4.7m seed funding round. The round was led by pi Ventures with participation from global investors including Anorak Ventures, TenOneTen Ventures, Arka Ventures, Mana Ventures, and Exfinity Venture Partners. RagaAI's funding round will primarily be used to advance research and development, with a focus on improving AI testing tools. Additionally, the company plans to expand its team and raise awareness in the AI community while forming strategic partnerships. This investment positions RagaAI for significant growth in AI innovation. Press release

iSpecimen has entered into a pilot program agreement with TriMetis. This agreement aims to establish a strategic partnership between iSpecimen and TriMetis, providing opportunities for iSpecimen, its suppliers and customers to utilize technology solutions from TriMetis. By combining iSpecimen’s global network of suppliers and researchers with TriMetis’ AI-powered, automated digital pathology solutions, this partnership is working to address industry challenges, reduce the risk of errors associated with manual processes and revolutionize tissue assessment for preclinical research. Press release

Exscientia has released MolFlux, a foundational package for molecular predictive modeling to facilitate machine learning research and make it easier for the ML community to iterate, innovate, and push the boundaries of molecular modeling. MolFlux provides freely available standardized and modular access to the entire machine learning pipeline: datasets, features, splits, models, and metrics. It ships with some of the most popular features and architectures and can easily be extended with new ones, from robust classical models to state-of-the-art deep learning models. See GitHub

The Personalized Medicine Coalition has released their Strategic Plan for Advancing Personalized Medicine in 2024. This document outlines PMC’s plans to advance the frontiers of the field by executing initiatives across the three mutually reinforcing fronts of education, advocacy, and research. Read the 2024 Strategic Plan

To optimize clinical manufacturing processes for innovators developing breakthrough cell therapies, Thermo Fisher Scientific launched the Gibco Cell Therapy Systems (CTS) Cellmation Software, a first-of-its-kind automation solution designed to connect and integrate workflows across multiple Thermo Fisher Scientific cell therapy instruments while enabling cGMP compliance. This new offering can help eliminate the need for costly custom software projects and extensive validation, saving valuable time and resources during the cell therapy manufacturing process and helping to deliver these promising curative therapies more quickly and safely to patients. Press release

Cytek Biosciences has signed an agreement with the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) to drive technological innovation and accelerate discoveries for the scientific community. Cytek’s distinctive approach to spectral flow cytometry has allowed advancements in the understanding of cell biology, immunotherapy, and targeted therapeutic methodologies. Under the terms of the agreement, Cytek will provide new, state-of-the-art spectral cytometry platforms—along with trained support personnel—to the CRG-UPF Flow Cytometry Unit’s headquarters. Press release

ERS Genomics Limited and StemSight announced a non-exclusive CRISPR/Cas9 license agreement. The agreement grants StemSight access to ERS’ CRISPR/Cas9 patent portfolio. ERS Genomics provides licensing to CRISPR/Cas9 technology for companies interested in pursuing its use in their commercial programs. Financial details of the agreement are not disclosed. Press release

Akiram Therapeutics has entered into an agreement with Karolinska University Hospital for the manufacturing of 177Lu-AKIR001, a radiopharmaceutical designed for treating patients with solid tumors. This agreement marks an important step toward the Phase I first-in-human study, which is planned to start in 2024. Karolinska will supply Akiram with services related to the current Good Manufacturing Practice production of the radiopharmaceutical product 177Lu-AKIR001 for human use, along with other related services. The hospital will also establish the radiolabeling of the product and ensure that it is ready for administration to patients with cancer in an upcoming study. Press release

Personalis has received a final Medicare coverage determination for its NeXT Dx ultra-comprehensive tumor genomic profiling assay, providing access for the nation’s 66 million Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. NeXT Dx analyzes a tumor’s entire exome (DNA) and transcriptome (RNA) to uncover deeper insights into therapy selection, including RNA-based fusions and advanced biomarkers that smaller panels might miss, such as tumor mutational burden and microsatellite instability. In addition, NeXT Dx utilizes paired tumor and non-tumor samples to report more accurate results. Press release

DNAnexus and Intelliseq announced a partnership to simplify and accelerate variant interpretation and clinical reporting. As part of the agreement, DNAnexus is adding Intelliseq’s automated genome interpretation and reporting capabilities to its Precision Health Data Cloud. The integrated, one-click solution will streamline NGS data analysis and provide scientists with the ability to generate critical insights into somatic cancers, hereditary diseases, and other precision medicine and biomedical research applications. Press release

Concentric by Ginkgo has entered into a Co-Marketing Agreement with Illumina to partner on expanding biosecurity capabilities globally. Under the agreement, the partners aim to demonstrate the use of Illumina products with Concentric's bioradar, to accelerate the expansion of the pathogen monitoring network in a way that empowers countries, as well as increase the scale and scope of pathogen genomic surveillance globally. Concentric and Illumina will work together to market their solutions with the aim to enhance early warning of emerging and novel pathogens, as well as fill gaps in global biosurveillance infrastructure. Press release

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Capitainer three patents related to their soon-to-be-launched plasma/serum separation device, CapitainerSEP10. These patents cover the company’s technology for automatic separation and metering from whole blood. The company has an expected patent protection until 2042. Press release.   

DNAnexus and Ovation have teamed up to help streamline large-scale omics data analysis. The collaboration will initially focus on Ovation’s inflammatory bowel disease omics data, which includes whole genome sequencing and whole transcriptome sequencing on normal and diseased tissues linked to longitudinal clinical data. In the future, the companies plan to extend the collaboration into immunology, oncology, and cardiometabolic therapeutic areas. Press release

CELLphenomics and Charles River Laboratories International announced an agreement that provides Charles River clients with access to CELLphenomics’ proprietary 3D tumor model platform, PD3D, which will expand Charles River’s 3D in vitro testing services to further optimize oncological approaches for its clients. The agreement will also provide CELLphenomics access to Charles River’s genomically annotated and in vivo characterized cancer model database. The merger of both biobanks will significantly increase the translational relevance of the in vitro and the in vivo platforms offered by CELLphenomics and Charles River. Press release

SandboxAQ has acquired Good Chemistry, a leading computational chemistry company that leverages AI, quantum, and other advanced technologies to accelerate drug discovery and materials design. The acquisition will enhance SandboxAQ’s existing computational chemistry and simulation capabilities, adding world-class talent, proven technologies, and deep industry insights gleaned from working with leaders in the life sciences and advanced materials fields, including Dow. As part of the acquisition, SandboxAQ will integrate Good Chemistry’s software—QEMIST Cloud and Tangelo—into its growing enterprise software portfolio. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Press release

Deloitte announced Atlas AI, the latest addition to its Quartz AI suite of cross-industry solutions built on the NVIDIA AI and NVIDIA Omniverse platforms. As the first life sciences and health care offering under Quartz, Atlas AI includes a novel drug discovery accelerator that helps expedite research and bring new drugs to market faster. By using Generative AI models made accessible with BioNeMo, knowledge representation and reasoning, and custom protein Large Language Models (LLMs) and chemoinformatics LLMs, Atlas AI advances digital biology and transforms drug discovery with the latest AI technologies. Press release

Bruker Corporation announced the successful installation of a 1.2 Gigahertz (GHz) NMR system at the National Gateway Ultrahigh Field NMR Center at The Ohio State University. The 1.2 GHz AVANCE NMR spectrometer is a state-of-the-art instrument that enables high-resolution liquid and solid-state NMR experiments. It will be used by researchers at Ohio State and across the U.S. to study advanced materials, e.g., for batteries, and the structure and dynamics of biological molecules, with the goal of advancing the understanding of the underlying mechanisms of diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, viral infections, or Alzheimer’s disease. Press release.