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Industry News

Find here a listing of the latest industry news in genomics, genetics, precision medicine, and beyond. Updates are provided on a monthly basis.

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News for the month of February 2020

The coronavirus, COVID-19, was front and center in February’s news. The Institut Pasteur announced that it has sequenced the whole genome of the Wuhan 2019-nCoV virus, becoming the first institution in Europe to do so. In the hopes of quickly developing a treatment, The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha has begun an NIH clinical trial of remdesivir to treat COVID-19

In the cancer genomics space, the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium presented the most comprehensive and ambitious meta-analysis of cancer genomes so far. The group sequenced 2,658 whole-cancer genomes from 38 tissues and 1,188 transcriptomes!

This January news update has been sponsored by:

Coronavirus

Whole genome of the Wuhan coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, sequenced
Around twenty other sequences of the novel coronavirus genome have been obtained worldwide, and if compared to first sequenced, they are all very close; there is not much diversity in the viruses analyzed, which suggests that coronavirus 2019-nCoV did not need to mutate in order to adapt and spread.

NIH clinical trial of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 begins
Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., is an investigational broad-spectrum antiviral treatment.

Huge potential in studying the tiny: Sequencing genome of coronavirus from Wuhan could lead to vaccines

Genetics/Genomics Testing

Consumer DNA testing hits a rough patch: Here’s how companies like Ancestry and 23andMe can survive
It’s not all bad news. Both companies have an opportunity to shift their business models away from wellness and ancestry and into the medical sector.

Why DNA tests are suddenly unpopular
23andMe and Ancestry are laying off workers as interest in their DNA tests declines – Privacy concerns and limited utility.

ASHG survey finds americans strongly support human genetics research & potential
Respondents want confidence in data privacy, have some knowledge gaps.

Ancestry lays off 6% of staff as consumer genetic testing market continues to decline

NGS/Genomics

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former US FDA Commissioner, joins Illumina’s Board of Directors

Bio-Rad Laboratories products indirectly infringe 10x Genomics patents, USITC confirms

MGI announced the commercial availability of its sequencing instruments and reagent kits in the US based on MGI’s CoolMPS™ sequencing chemistry, starting in April of this year

Twist Bioscience secures $140M plus a slew of new DNA partnerships including with SOPHiA GENETICS to offer optimized genomic solutions
The team-ups are working on delivering a new solution focused on data and genomic analysis, with the help of Sophia Genetics, as well as the development of target enrichment tools and library preparation kits through collaborations with GenapSys and Miroculus.

Twist Bioscience and SOPHiA GENETICS collaborate to offer optimized genomic solutions

From bench to clinic—The potential of new sequencing tools

BC Platforms supports University of Nottingham launch of ATLAS, a health data discovery platform for the UK’s national biobank network

Precision Medicine

Epic: How a company you never heard off handles your medical records
A CBS story about Epic with a reference to physician burnout but zero discussion about interoperability gaps. Epic should be credited for Epic to Epic data exchange. But the whole problem is Epic to anything else.

Epic and about 60 hospital chains come out against rules that would make it easier to share medical info

Patients with challenging cancers to benefit from genomic sequencing
More than 1000 Victorian cancer patients are set to benefit from real-time genomic testing in the next three years, aiming to improve diagnosis and provide more targeted and effective treatments for cancers of unmet need. The $6M Cancer of Unmet Need Initiative is the first project of a partnership announced last year by University of Melbourne and Illumina.

NHGRI establishes new intramural precision health research program
Program aims to capitalize on growing availability of large-scale genomic and health record data worldwide to advance the science of precision health.

Verana Health aims to organize and analyze doctors’ clinical data sets, whether patients like it or not
If the two-year-old healthcare startup Verana Health has its way it could become the Google for physician generated healthcare data.

Genome India Project: A boon for personalized medicine that mustn’t be misused for origin-tracing
The Genome India Project aims to map the diversity of India’s genetic pool, and “lay the bedrock of personalized medicine.” This will be a collaboration between 20 Indian research institutions with the goal to develop a reference Indian genome using genetic samples from 10,000 persons across India.

Germline and somatic tumor testing in epithelial ovarian cancer

Data and technology to play key role in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, says EU chief

Dubai’s Al Jalila Children’s hospital launches genetic testing centre

Artificial Intelligence

The advances of AI in healthcare
In April, NHSX, the unit whose remit is to deliver the digital transformation of the health service, will begin running a new artificial intelligence (AI) lab.

AI identifies powerful new antibiotic that can kill drug-resistant bacteria

Data Sharing/ Data Privacy

Your data is valuable. You should decide who can access it

Microbiome

Drugs from bugs: Why Gates, Zuck And Benioff think the next blockbusters will come from inside your gut
Discusses startups that tackle the microbiome such as Finch Therapeutics, Open Biome, Vedanta Biosciences, Vioma, and Axial Biotherapeutics.

Liquid Biopsy

How simple blood tests could revolutionize cancer treatment
The latest DNA science can match tumor types to new treatments, and soon, a blood test might be able to detect early signs of cancer.

Miscellaneous

Boosting cancer research by unlocking genomic data
An interview with Fiona Nielsen, co-founder and CEO of Repositive.

The next deadly pathogen could come from a rogue scientist. Here’s how we can prevent that.

Harnessing genetic suppression to treat rare disease

We’ve sequenced the human genome. So why haven’t we cured more diseases?

Publications

Global genomics project unravels cancer’s complexity at unprecedented scale
A massive international effort has yielded multifaceted studies of more than 2,600 tumours from 38 tissues, generating a wealth of insights into the genetic basis of cancer. The The findings of an unparalleled, decade-long collaboration that explored the entire cancer genome is presented in the Feb 5 journal of Nature in 23 papers. 

Precision medicine integrating whole-genome sequencing, comprehensive metabolomics, and advanced imaging

Unprecedented study yields most comprehensive map of cancer genomes to date
Most comprehensive study of whole cancer genomes to date, improves fundamental understanding of cancer, suggests new directions for diagnosis & treatment – this PCAWG or the Pan-Cancer Project analyzed more than 2,600 genomes of 38 different tumor types.

Gut feelings: Gut bacteria are linked to our personality
Both the gut microbiome composition and diversity were related to differences in personality, including sociability and neuroticism. Sociable people have a higher abundance of certain types of gut bacteria and also more diverse bacteria.

Single-cell sperm transcriptomes and variants from fathers of children with and without autism spectrum disorder

Gut microbiota plasticity is correlated with sustained weight loss on a low-carb or low-fat dietary intervention

Mergers, Partnerships, and Acquisitions

Foundation Medicine, Chugai ink partnership with NCC for use of FoundationOne Liquid in third stage of SCRUM-Japan

Funding

OncoDNA announced that it has completed a €19 million ($20 million) Series B equity financing

Q Bio raises $40M in series B financing round

Twist Bioscience secures $140M

News for the month of January 2020

2020 kicked off with substantial funding rounds for DNA sequencing technology companies. OmniomeElement BiosciencesOxford NanoporeRoswell Biotechnologies, and Single Technologies all received financing to advance their respective NGS technologies with the goal to increase sequencing performance, accuracy, speed, throughput, while making it cost-efficient.

In spite of stellar funding news, there are signs of the direct-to-consumer segment slowing down as noted last year by Illumina CEO Francis deSouza in their summer earnings call. The market turn was mirrored in a DNA test sales decline which resulted in 23andMe announcing layoffs of 100 people. Lastly, Illumina and PacBio have terminated their planned $1.2bn merger after being challenged by anti-monopoly agencies in the US and UK. 

This January news update has been sponsored by:

Genetics/ Genomics Testing

23andMe lays off 100 people as DNA test sales decline, CEO says she was ‘surprised’ to see market turn
The signs of a slowdown in the space came last summer when Francis deSouza, CEO of Illumina, noted in its earnings call that the entire segment was down.

23andMe co-founder’s new startup, Precise.ly, brings genomics to India through Narayana partnership
Precise.ly is taking the spin on direct to consumer personalized genomics to India through a partnership with Naryana Health, one of India’s leading specialty hospital networks (24 hospitals serving 2.5 million patients).

NGS/ Genomics

Illumina, PacBio scrap $1.2bn merger, citing “continued uncertainty”
Illumina and Pacific Biosciences will “mutually” terminate their planned $1.2bn merger, a deal threatened in recent weeks by anti-monopoly regulatory agencies in the United States and the U.K.

Illumina announces new sequencing system, partnership with Roche and Software Suite to accelerate adoption of genomics
At the Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, CEO Francis deSouza, announced a 15-year, non-exclusive collaboration agreement with Roche, in addition to announcing the NextSeq™ 1000 and NextSeq 2000 Sequencing Systems offering which includes on-instrument integrated informatics for rapid secondary analysis.

Precision Medicine

Germany joins the 1+Million Genomes Initiative
Germany signed the Declaration “Towards access to at least 1 million sequenced genomes in the EU by 2022”. The Declaration, launched in 2018, established a collaboration mechanism on human genome data aiming to improve disease prevention, allow for more personalised treatments and provide a sufficient scale for new clinically impactful research. Germany is the 21st EU Member State to join this initiative.

Our body systems age at different rates, study finds, pointing to personalized care to extend healthy life
Just as people have an individual genotype, so too do they have an “ageotype,” a combination of molecular and other changes that are specific to one physiological system. Discusses the 106 people Mike Snyder Stanford study published in Nature Medicine.
Read the recent interview with Mike Snyder on our blog.

Pharma

Pfizer’s big data exec on pharma’s ‘arms race’ to partner with companies like Fitbit, 23AndMe, and others
Pharmaceutical giants are hunting for ways to tap into the data from your smart watch, your sleep tracker, and your genetic tests.

Artificial Intelligence

Rise of Robot Radiologists
Quote by Curt Langlotz, Radiology Director at Stanford: “AI won’t replace radiologists, but radiologists who use AI will replace radiologists who don’t.”

Google develops AI to improve breast cancer screenings
In collaboration with the Cancer Research UK Imperial Centre, Northwestern University, and Royal Surrey County Hospital, Google has created an AI model for reading mammograms, which are X-rays of the breast, to help radiologists spot the signs of breast cancer more accurately.

Medicine by machine: Is A.I. the cure for the world’s ailing drug industry?
Discusses companies, such as Deep Genomics, Atomwise, Lantern and their AI approaches to sift through endless archives of biological data to find patterns that would take a human a lifetime to discover.

Precision medicine startup Notable starts trial to test AI platform in blood cancer patients
The ANSWer trial will enroll up to 1,000 patients and follow them for up to a year. A smaller feasibility study conducted with Stanford University and Tempus showed an 84% accuracy rate in predicting patient responses to drugs.

CRISPR

Companies join forces to address urgently needed quality control of CRISPR genome-editing
COBO Technologies and Cardea Bio partner to bring solutions to challenges with the precision of Genome editing. The partners have agreed to co-develop and market a portfolio of CRISPR QC products and services for quality control (QC) of CRISPR research, agricultural, and pre-clinical programs.

German researchers have managed to use the CRISPR gene-editing tool to correct the condition of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)  in pigs, bringing the treatment ever closer to human trials.

Liquid Biopsy

Grail’s liquid biopsy underwhelms at Asco-GI

Immunotherapy

MD Anderson acquires cancer immunotherapy manufacturing facility
MD Anderson Cancer Center will purchase Bellicum Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s manufacturing facility in Houston for $15M. MD Anderson will manufacture Bellicum’s cell therapies programs for clinical trials and early commercial supply at the 60,000-square-foot facility.

T-Cell discovery could herald universal cancer immunotherapy

Miscellaneous

Cancer statistics, 2020 – The American Cancer Society announced its latest figures on cancer incidence and mortality
Mortality rates are a better indicator of progress against cancer than incidence or survival rates because they are less affected by biases resulting from changes in detection practices.

The sneaky genius of Facebook’s new preventive health tool
The feature looks likely to fill gaps in care—and to further draw users into Facebook’s ecosystem.

Limited data may be skewing assumptions about severity of coronavirus outbreak
We don’t know what the ratio of severe cases vs. mild cases is which would tell us how bad the coronavirus outbreak truly is.

Three star scientists announce plan to solve biotech’s ‘missing women’ problem
A pledge signed by five venture firms, including Polaris Partners and F-Prime Capital, “to do all in our power to ensure the boards of directors for companies where we hold positions of power are 25% female by the end of 2022.

Publications

The single-cell pathology landscape of breast cancer

Discovery of new T-cell raises prospect of ‘universal’ cancer therapy
These newly discovered T-cells are equipped with a new type of T-cell receptor (TCR) which recognizes and kills most human cancer types, while ignoring healthy cells.

Dozens of non-oncology drugs can kill cancer cells
A study testing thousands of medicines in hundreds of cancer cell lines in the lab uncovers new tricks for many old drugs.

Sapling: Accelerating Suffix Array Queries with Learned Data Models

Mergers, Partnerships, and Acquisitions

Quest Diagnostics acquires Blueprint Genetics for undisclosed amount
Deal adds platform in gene variant interpretation based on next generation sequencing and proprietary bioinformatics to improve patient care and drug development.

Funding

DNA sequencing hardware startup Omniome raises $60M

Element Biosciences raises $80M in Series B financing to accelerate development of a new DNA sequencing platform

Oxford Nanopore lands £109.5M investment
The deal brings Oxford Nanopore’s total primary investment to around £480 million.

Roswell Biotechnologies secures $32 million Series A financing round

Single Technologies raises $1.6M to develop NGS platform
Single Technologies announced it has raised SEK15 million ($1.6M) to support further development of its next-generation sequencing platform.

Investors poured $4bn into healthcare AI startups in 2019
Up from nearly $2.7bn invested in healthcare AI in 2018 across 264 deals. The surge in funding was led by mega-rounds of financing reaching at least $100M. Babylon Health, a U.K.-based AI chatbot that also links up to provider practices, falls into this category and raised $550M last year.

Alto, a pharmacy start-up, just raised $250M
Alto delivers medications to people’s homes and offices.

Doudna-founded CRISPR upstart, Mammoth Biosciences, bags $45M for new Cas research, extends its reach into therapeutics

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