Organizations Partner to Study Genetics of Addiction

BioRealm, RUCDR Infinite Biologics, and Affymetrix have entered a broad strategic alliance that will leverage BioRealm’s SmokeScreen platform to genotype the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) biorepository of more than 50,000 samples. Developed in conjunction with NIDA’s Genetics Consortium and Affymetrix, the SmokeScreen array is a genome-wide array with a research-driven focus on more than 1,000 addiction-related genes. The samples it will analyze were collected from human subjects studied in NIDA-funded research, and are preserved in a biobank at RUCDR Infinite Biologics, on the campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey. To date, the analysis of genetic information contained in these samples has been focused on specific targets, and the samples have not been collectively analyzed. This partnership makes it possible to analyze this information in a cost-effective manner.

Once the genetic information contained in these samples is made available to researchers, it will be used to study the link between genetic variations and addiction. Detailed genetic information might, for example, be used by researchers exploring how genetics influences patients’ individual responses to treatment approaches.

“Because of the SmokeScreen array, we have the ability to reveal genetic information previously hidden in NIDA’s samples,” said Andrew Brooks, PhD, chief operating officer and director of technology development at RUCDR Infinite Biologics. “It is a validated platform that will become a crucial tool in advancing addiction research and moving the field towards personalized treatment.”

Quest, Perinatal Quality Foundation to Advance Noninvasive Prenatal Screening

The Perinatal Quality Foundation has launched a nationwide campaign to improve understanding among pregnant women and their healthcare providers of the advantages, limitations, and clinically appropriate interpretation of results of noninvasive prenatal screening (NIPT) and other diagnostic tests. Quest Diagnostics is supporting the initiative through a grant. The campaign will involve a comprehensive education and quality-tracking program for NIPTs, maternal serum screening, chromosomal microarray analysis, and expanded carrier screening. Additionally, it will create an online patient registry through which women who receive prenatal screening during pregnancy may report results of confirmatory diagnostic tests, primarily chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis, as well as post-partum outcomes. The goal is to enable scientists to use this de-identified information to determine the positive and negative predictive values for noninvasive prenatal screens for common aneuploidies such as trisomy 21.

Thermo Fisher and CDC Join Forces to Accelerate Global Microbial Identification

Through a collaboration with the Special Bacteriology Reference Laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed the MicrobeBridge software platform, a solution that enables global public health laboratories to directly access CDC’s MicrobeNet online virtual reference lab database. With this software, researchers can identify microbial pathogens potentially at the root of global outbreaks more quickly by using one expert-curated database instead of multiple databases. MicrobeBridge further minimizes the effort required to match and positively identify specimens by integrating with all Applied Biosystems capillary electrophoresis instruments and automating the assembly and quality control of raw Sanger sequencing data into a searchable format in the MicrobeNet database.

DNA-based microbial identification has become an invaluable tool for public health scientists to identify and track infectious disease outbreaks,” said Dan Didier, MD, PhD, director of public health at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Yet data analysis has slowed the ability of public health laboratories to act swiftly. MicrobeBridge overcomes that hurdle and equips researchers with technology that helps them to respond more quickly to pathogens that threaten human health.

Broad Institute, Google Collaborate on Expanding Access to Genomic Analysis Tools

The Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard has teamed with Google Genomics to explore how to break down major technical barriers that increasingly hinder biomedical research. Specifically, the two organizations plan to tackle the need for computing infrastructure to store and process enormous datasets, as well as for tools to analyze such data. As a first step, Broad Institute’s Genome Analysis Toolkit, or GATK, will be offered as a service on the Google Cloud Platform as part of Google Genomics. GATK is a software package designed to analyze high-throughput genomic sequencing data. The goal of providing it through Google is to enable any genomic researcher to upload, store, and analyze data in a cloud-based environment that combines the Broad Institute’s state-of-the-art genomic analysis tools with Google’s scale and computing power.