Companies to Leverage 23andMe’s Database in Studies of Parkinson’s, Lupus Genetics
In an effort to identify new associations between genes and diseases, 23andMe has entered into two collaborations—one with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, and another with Pfizer—that will enable these companies to analyze the vast amount of genetic data 23andMe has collected.
As part of Genentech’s agreement with 23andMe—the second the two companies have inked over the past 2 years—the company will generate whole genome sequencing data for the approximately 3,000 people in 23andMe’s Parkinson’s disease database, which is the largest Parkinson’s disease database of its kind. The goal of this multi-year initiative is to identify new therapeutic targets for treating Parkinson’s, for which there is currently no cure.
Following the conclusion of the collaboration, 23andMe will have the ability to conduct additional research on the data, as well as the ability to make the information available to Parkinson’s researchers from around the world.
Pfizer’s agreement with 23andMe will grant the pharma giant access to 23andMe’s research portal, which enables approved scientists from outside 23andMe to study genetic information from more than 640,000 individuals whom 23andMe has genotyped. The two companies will also collaborate on genome-wide association studies, surveys, and clinical trial recruitment, including a longitudinal study to better understand the genetics of lupus. This study will entail enrollment and genotyping of 5,000 people into a new lupus research database.
It expands upon a collaboration between 23andMe and Pfizer started in 2014 to enroll 10,000 patients in a study of the genetic factors associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
To protect the privacy of research participants, in both collaborations de-identified individual-level data will only be shared from those individuals who provide explicit permission to 23andMe to do so.
Roche Teams With Foundation Medicine to Advance Personalized Oncology Treatment
Roche and Foundation Medicine (FMI) plan to enter into a broad strategic collaboration to advance FMI’s position in molecular information and genomic analysis while providing Roche the opportunity to optimize the identification and development of novel treatment options for cancer patients. Currently, FMI supports physicians by providing comprehensive molecular information to characterize tumors that are being matched with approved targeted therapy options and novel treatments under development. The company’s research and development (R&D) collaboration with Roche will initially focus on developing genomic profile tests for cancer immunotherapies and continuous blood-based monitoring, and will leverage FMI’s experience in the development of comprehensive genomic profiling tests for oncology. Under the terms of the agreement, Roche is committing to R&D funding of potentially more than $150 million for a minimum of 5 years. Roche will also be able to use FMI’s proprietary molecular information platform to standardize clinical trial testing. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2015.
WuXi PharmaTech and NextCode Health Merge to Form Global Genomics Service
WuXi PharmaTech has acquired NextCode Health for $65 million in cash, and plans to merge NextCode Health and WuXi’s Genome Center into a new company that will be named WuXi NextCode Genomics. This business will be headquartered in Shanghai, with operations in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Reykjavik, Iceland. NextCode Health is a genomic analysis and bioinformatics company with the only whole genome analysis system developed at population scale, as well as the largest clinical genetics reference database in the world. As for the WuXi Genome Center, it is the only CLIA-certified clinical genomics laboratory in China and provides next-generation sequencing solutions, a complete solution for drug development projects, and assay development, validation, and testing services.
WuXi’s acquisition of NextCode Health lays the groundwork for the creation of an integrated global enterprise that will offer comprehensive genomic and bioinformatics services, from CLIA-certified whole genome and whole exome sequencing to the analysis of that sequencing data necessary to provide effective diagnosis and treatment.
Amarantus Buys Neuro-Diagnostic Company DioGenix
For $8.9 million, Amarantus BioScience Holdings has acquired DioGenix, which will be merged into Amarantus Diagnostics as a foundational asset of a growing neuro-diagnostic business. DioGenix is known for its pipeline of diagnostic tests focused on immune-mediated neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). The company’s lead product, MSPrecise, is a next-generation DNA sequencing assay for the identification at first clinical presentation of patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), the most common form of MS. A clinical validation study demonstrated that MSPrecise can diagnose RRMS with an accuracy of 81%, compared to the current main test for MS, which only has an overall accuracy of 54–69%.
Through this merger, Amarantus Diagnostics aims to become the leading provider of solutions for MS evaluation. Amarantus will also gain all rights to all of DioGenix’s products under development, including tests that target neurosarcoid, neuromyelitis optica, paraneoplastic disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Partnership to Search for DNA Structural Variants in Prostate, Breast Cancer
Nabsys and Ariana Pharmaceuticals have joined forces to identify through the analysis of public genome databases sets of DNA structural variants linked to prostate and breast cancers and to the clinical outcome of patients with these diseases. Through their partnership, the two companies will develop a single database each for the analysis of prostate adenocarcinomas and for the analysis of breast cancer. Ultimately, they aim to generate genetic cancer signatures comprised of previously-identified DNA structure variations that can be employed in personalized treatment plans.
“The expertise of Ariana Pharma will allow Nabsys to refine the right combination of structural variations for the right cancer sub-types and will ultimately help define the possible diagnostics and prognostics tools for these diseases,” said Tony Shuber, chief scientific officer at Nabsys. “The ability to demonstrate links between structural variations and progression free survival and overall survival end-points goes well beyond the current commercial offerings for small segment sequencing.”
Abcam Expands miRNA, Multiplex Capabilities With Firefly Acquisition
Abcam has entered into an agreement to acquire the entire issued share capital of Firefly BioWorks for $28 million. Firefly has developed a novel multiplex assay platform for the detection of biomarkers based on a microfabrication technology invented by the company’s founders at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has also developed a product for the detection of microRNAs. MicroRNA is one of the fastest growing areas of biomarker and scientific research, and this type of nucleic acid detection and measurement is rapidly growing in importance to Abcam’s life science consumers. Abcam also believes the acquisition of Firefly will strengthen its fast growing kits and assays business by adding a multiplex assay capability to its portfolio. Additionally, Abcam and Firefly see further potential to combine Abcam’s proprietary RabMAb technology with Firefly’s assay capability to provide multiplex protein measurement.