Thermo Fisher Scientific to Equip New Mount Sinai Next-Generation Sequencing Facility

The Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai has selected a suite of 16 next-generation sequencing (NGS) systems and ancillary technology from Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Ion Torrent portfolio for genomics research in a new facility. The facility is located in Branford, Connecticut, and in a prepared statement, Mount Sinai stated that it planned on outfitting the center by October with eight Ion Proton Sequencers, eight Ion Chef Systems, the Torrent Suite Variant Caller, and AmpliSeq Custom Panels.

This highly automated NGS center will focus on studies that require large volumes of samples to undergo sequencing, and the Icahn Institute is developing a wide array of clinical tests to be run on the Ion Proton platform in the new facility. “For example, New York State Department of Health recently approved a test for clinical care for different types of cancer using specific mutations represented on our new ‘Ion AmpliSeq Cancer Hotspot Panel,’ which interrogates hotspot regions of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes,” said Eric Schadt, PhD, founding director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology.

Thermo Fisher also collaborated with Mount Sinai researchers to develop custom AmpliSeq targets derived for gene targets chosen by Mount Sinai investigators and that comprise 26,000 amplicons across two pools—the largest custom panel to date. This new custom panel covers over 700 genes that have been known to increase the risk for inherited genetic diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and other disorders. Additionally, the Ion Proton platform will be used to support Mount Sinai’s Resilience Project, a research program that aims to identify and better understand genes and other factors that may protect certain individuals from developing rare catastrophic diseases.

Insurer and Seven Competing Hospital Systems Form Unique Health Network

Anthem Blue Cross and seven top hospital systems have partnered to offer Anthem Blue Cross Vivity, a new integrated health system in Southern California. This is the first time a health insurance company has aimed to provide coordinated care with hospitals that are competitors and not owned by the plan itself. The seven hospital systems involved are Cedars-Sinai, Good Samaritan Hospital, Huntington Memorial Hospital, MemorialCare Health System, PIH Health, Torrance Memorial Medical Center, and UCLA Health System, all of which include hospitals ranked in the top 30 in Los Angeles and Orange Counties by U.S. News & World Report. All participants in this venture will share financial risk and gain.

Large employers will be able to sign up for Vivity starting in 2015, at costs that could be 10% lower than what they currently pay for coverage. Under this plan, employees will pay premiums and co-pays, but will not have to worry about meeting deductibles. Vivity also departs from traditional fee-for-service reimbursements that may incentivize increasing the volume of medical procedures performed by providers, and instead moves toward a structure that financially rewards activities to keep patients healthy. Additionally, the new network will provide longer term value to members through future improvements in efficiency and effectiveness such as a common electronic medical records system, shared care management systems, and joint wellness resources.

Bioneer, Nigerian Government Partner on Rapid MDx Test for Ebola

Earlier this year, the South Korean company Bioneer began collaborating with the Nigerian National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) to create a rapid test for the Zaire subtype of Ebola that is causing the epidemic in West Africa. Recently, Bioneer finished development of this test, the AccuPower EBOV Real-time RT-PCR Kit, and presented it at a symposium held in Nigeria’s capital by NABDA on options for the diagnosis and treatment of Ebola. As CLN went to press, 20 people in Nigeria had been infected by Ebola in the current outbreak and eight killed, but in a promising turn of events, the country seemed to have become the first in West Africa to have stopped the spread of the disease successfully.

Bioneer’s kit is designed for the early diagnosis of Ebola and quantitative analysis of viral load during treatment, and is currently used by NABDA. The company also plans to make the kit available for use throughout Africa.

LabCorp Launches New Genomics Business

Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp) has launched Enlighten Health Genomics, a new business that builds on the diagnostic potential of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology. This new company combines LabCorp’s infrastructure with a team of expert geneticists to offer NGS analysis and interpretation, as well as informed genetic counseling. Later this year, Enlighten Health Genomics will also introduce ExomeReveal, a whole exome sequencing testing service. Increasing evidence suggests that early genetic diagnosis can improve clinical outcomes, and ExomeReveal will provide genome-wide interpretation for children with serious childhood genetic diseases as well as additional diagnostic information for patients of any age.

“Our goal is to offer innovative and affordable diagnostic solutions to broad patient populations, making genomics a routine part of clinical decisions,” said David Goldstein, PhD, a genetics professor at Duke University who will chair Enlighten Health Genomics’ Scientific Advisory Board.

Mayo, ABL Collaborate on Virology Tests

Mayo Medical Laboratories and Advanced Biological Labora­tories (ABL) have teamed to develop a deep-sequencing pipeline for novel laboratory-developed tests in the field of virology. The resulting tests will be validated using clinical samples selected by the Mayo Clinic Division of Clinical Microbiology, and the collaboration will also seek to generate a sequence database to which clinical isolates can be compared.

Under this agreement, Mayo Clinic also receives access to a range of ABL’s virology products for genotyping data analysis—either from Sanger or next-generation sequencing—such as the ViroScore Suite. ViroScore compares mutations found in a virus of interest to mutations captured in knowledge bases and the demonstrated impact they have on drug resistance.

Rosetta Genomics, Moffitt Cancer Center to Develop microRNA-Based Oncology Tests

Rosetta Genomics has entered into a strategic alliance with Moffitt Cancer Center to discover, develop, and commercialize a variety of microRNA-based cancer diagnostics. The 3-year collaboration joins the resources of Moffitt, a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, with Rosetta Genomics’ experience developing microRNA-based tests.

Specifically, the alliance will leverage Rosetta’s proprietary RT-PCR platform and discovery microarray platform with more than 2,500 human microRNAs, as well as the company’s bioinformatics and microRNA wet lab expertise.