Shriners Hospitals for Children and The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) have teamed to advance research on orthopedic conditions in pediatric patients. With the opening of Shriners Hospitals’ Genomic Institute, Shriners Hospitals and JAX aim to focus on conditions such as clubfoot, scoliosis, and osteogenesis imperfecta.

Under the terms of the agreement, Shriners Hospitals will implement next-generation sequencing of DNA samples collected from children diagnosed with one of the specific conditions throughout all hospital locations in North America. In addition, the JAX team will analyze each sample and develop mouse models carrying the same genetic variations as patients to further new research. Through genetic research, the parties envision a future in which clinicians will be able to immediately diagnose and treat each rare condition and prevent a lifelong medical struggle.

“Harnessing the power of genomics to understand the basis for orthopedic and other pediatric diseases is of the utmost importance,” said Charles Lee, PhD, FACMG, scientific director and professor at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. “This research can bring hope to countless families, and we’re looking forward to working with Shriners Hospitals to help children around the world.”

Walmart Launches Second Low-cost Health Clinic

The multibillion-dollar retail company Walmart has opened its second full-service primary care health clinic, in Calhoun, Georgia. The Calhoun Walmart Health Center is partnering with various healthcare providers including Tivity Health to provide easily accessible, low-cost patient care without a strong focus on patients’ health insurance status. The health center offers medical consultations, procedures, and diagnoses all at one facility that Walmart is pitching as an alternative to doctors’ offices. In a separate facility adjacent to the Walmart Supercenter, patients also receive services such as primary and urgent care; lab tests, X-rays, and other diagnostics; counseling; dental; optical and hearing services; and health education classes.

The health facility employs qualified medical professionals and will operate just like any other medical center that allows patients to create new and recurring appointments. As part of the grand opening, the company announced a donation to Susan G. Komen to increase women’s health services for underserved patients in Georgia. Walmart launched its first health clinic in September 2019 in Dallas, Georgia, and expects to expand to other locations in the future. “The issues of healthcare affordability and accessibility are two of the greatest and most prevalent concerns in our country today,” said Sean Slovenski, senior vice president of health and wellness at Walmart U.S. “We have been prioritizing how Walmart can be a leader in promoting better health outcomes for people in their communities, on their schedules, and within their budgets.”

Quest Acquires Blueprint Genetics, Partners With Siemens Healthineers

In an all-cash agreement, Quest Diagnostics acquired Blueprint Genetics to improve testing and pharmaceutical drug research and development for rare and genetic diseases. Quest is hoping to improve its next-generation sequencing (NGS) capabilities by leveraging Blueprint Genetics’ expertise with interpreting gene variants in NGS data. Ultimately, Quest’s goal is to continuously develop new Food and Drug Administration-approved tests for a number of genetic diseases that currently affect an estimated 30 million Americans.

“Teaming up with Quest will allow us to extend our capabilities in the United States as well as in Canada and other countries where we already have strong and growing client relationships,” said Tommi Lehtonen, vice president and general manager of Blueprint Genetics. “While we considered joining forces with several organizations, Quest’s genetics leadership, national infrastructure, and strong cultural fit made it the perfect partner from which to extend our reach to new providers and patients.” Quest plans to deploy Blueprint’s genetic testing in pediatric and academic hospitals.

Following the deal with Blueprint Genetics, Quest announced another deal, this time a collaboration with Siemens Healthineers on immunoassay testing. Siemens was chosen by Quest to be its main supplier for immunoassay testing using Siemens’ Atellica Solution analyzer. The system will allow Quest to significantly increase its volume of immunoassay testing, the companies said, as well as the turnaround time for results. Per the agreement, both companies plan to launch up to 120 Atellica Solution immunoassay analyzers in 19 core laboratories across the U.S. They also plan to open a Quest lab in New Jersey that will feature the testing system beginning in 2021.

Firms Seek FDA Approval for Integrated Products

In a regulatory cooperation agreement, Biodesix and Streck are seeking Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for combined molecular diagnostic testing and specimen collection products. The agreement is intended specifically for Biodesix’s companion diagnostic tests for lung cancer and Streck blood collection tubes. By integrating the blood collection tools into Biodesix’s collection protocols, company experts believe the partnership will facilitate sample transportation and therefore could decrease turnaround time.

Currently, the only FDA-approved sequencing tests are those that use tissue samples rather than blood-based samples. To improve the timeliness and accuracy of results, both companies are committed to receiving FDA approval and increasing the use of blood-based testing in labs. “Partnerships like this one between Streck and Biodesix allow patients to receive critical results that can impact their quality of life and improve health outcomes for those most vulnerable,” said Connie Ryan, CEO of Streck. “We are excited to work with Biodesix as we are both passionate about bringing this cutting-edge technology to the forefront of patient care.”

Thermo, NanoPin Aim to Reduce Turnaround Times

Thermo Fisher Scientific is collaborating with NanoPin Technologies to advance blood-based infectious diseases detection technology. Under the partnership, the companies intend to develop clinical assays for infectious diseases that will ultimately reduce the turnaround time for results. “Time is critical when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from infectious disease, and current methods do not facilitate prompt diagnosis and rapid evaluation of treatment response,” said Bradley Hart, senior director of clinical research, chromatography, and mass spectrometry at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The partnership will combine NanoPin’s diagnostic platform with Thermo Fisher’s advanced liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) technology and develop highly sensitive LC-MS-based workflows. Through study of disease-related antigens derived directly from patient blood samples, the parties hope to improve clinical decision-making and personalized patient care. “Through our agreement with Thermo Fisher, our unique diagnostic platform has the potential to change how infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, are detected, treated, and controlled by solving the unmet needs of healthcare providers managing patient care throughout the world,” said Thomas Tombler, PhD, CEO of NanoPin Technologies.