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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 August 2020

August brought big news on the Thermo Fisher-Qiagen deal. It fell apart after failing to secure shareholder support. Qiagen shareholders felt the company was worth more than Thermo Fisher was offering with the world clamoring for its COVID-19 diagnostic reagents and molecular testing supplies. Qiagen’s shares outpaced the original offer as sales jumped nearly 20%. Due to the agreement termination, Qiagen will pay to Thermo Fisher an expense reimbursement payment of USD 95 million in cash. Microbiologist Rita Colwell known for her pioneering research on cholera was interviewed this month on Marketplace about her new book (co-authored with Sharon Bertsch McGrayne) “A Lab of One’s Own: One Woman’s Personal Journey Through Sexism and Science.” She shares her hope that the future generations of female scientists will not face the sexism she regularly encountered in the field. 

This August news update has been sponsored by:

COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2

Check out our “COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2” news page for a compilation of recent news and useful information.

Funding

  • Freenome closes $270 Million Series C to advance novel multi-omics blood testing platform for early cancer detection
  • CancerIQ raises $5M in VC funding to further growth of its product offering and integration with EHRs and genetic testing partners.
  • Atomwise raises $123 Million in Series B to further scale the largest artificial intelligence (AI)-driven drug discovery portfolio in history and expand $5 billion+ deal pipeline for small molecule drug discovery
  • Mission Bio raises $70M in Series C to accelerate development of cancer therapies with single-cell multi-omics
  • Biofidelity raises $12m in Series A to accelerate launch of disruptive cancer diagnostic technology
  • Aetion completes $82M Series B round with $19M extension
  • ImmunoScape raised USD $11 million (SGD $14.8 million) in a global equity financing round
  • Pandemic provokes new wave of funding for healthcare start-ups

Mergers and Partnerships

Genetic/ Genomic Testing

Precision Medicine

NGS Genomics Platforms

Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning

Liquid Biopsy

Data Sharing/ Data Privacy

Publications

Miscellaneous

News for the month of July 2020

July brought the 100 year anniversary of Rosalind Franklin’s birth and we couldn’t agree more that “it’s time to recognize her for the full breadth and depth of her research career.“ COVID-19 vaccine development continues to speed along with a promising vaccine from Moderna. This the while the University of Oxford vaccine candidate might be through human trials in September. AstraZeneca has lined up agreements to produce 2 billion doses. In the liquid biopsy sector, researchers developed a promising blood test that detects stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung, and liver cancer up to four years before symptoms appear. 

This July news update has been sponsored by:

COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2

Check out our “COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2” news page for a compilation of latest news and useful information.

NGS Genomics Platforms

Illumina Launches TruSight Software Suite to Accelerate the Identification of Genetic Diseases The new offering – ready-made infrastructure for whole-genome sequencing for rare genetic diseases – enables sample-to-report analysis for genetic disease testing.

At-scale Genomic Data Compression, Storage, and Access Using PetaGene on AWS: Reference Architecture

Collaborative Environment Released for COVID-19 Host Response Research Illumina released a new collaborative environment for studying COVID-19 host response, leveraging BaseSpace Correlation Engine (BSCE).

Precision Medicine

Genomics England launches next-generation research platform central to UK COVID-19 response British tech company Lifebit and Amazon Web Services to support a dedicated environment for researchers working on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

Electronic health records haven’t delivered on their promise. Could COVID-19 change that?

Intermountain Healthcare Implements DeepThink Health’s Precision Intelligence Solutions to Manage its Molecular Tumor Board

Precision Medicine Projects to Accelerate COVID-19 Treatment

We need public health and personalized medicine to combat COVID-19—NOT one or the other

Clinical trials need to include more Black and other minority participants. The Covid-19 pandemic and the disproportionate devastation it has wrought on Black, Hispanic, and poor Americans has (again) raised the call for creating inclusive clinical trials that are representative of patient populations

A nonprofit just announced a 23andMe-like genomic sequencing model for a rare cancer—but it’s free The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is launching a new effort to provide cancer patients with personalized recommendations for dealing with their disease.

Data Sharing/ Data Privacy

China’s massive effort to collect its people’s DNA concerns scientists Genetic material is being collected from men across the country to help solve crimes, but researchers worry the data will be misused.

EU strikes down key US data-sharing protocol, citing threat of mass surveillance US companies can’t be trusted with personal data, says top EU court.

Arrested under new law, Hong Kong protesters get swabbed for DNA

As data-sharing becomes more crucial, agencies say industry can help with privacy issues

Data sharing critical to close ‘innovation blackhole’ for rare diseases Access to data and ‘real-world evidence’ obtained from observational data is needed to help push research and innovation on rare diseases, stakeholders have said.

Research Data Alliance finalizes COVID-19 data sharing guidelines The report offers best practices and advice – around software, data-governance, legal and ethical considerations and more – for four key research areas: clinical data, omics practices, epidemiology and social sciences.

Genetic/ Genomic Testing

Experimental Blood Test Detects Cancer up to Four Years before Symptoms Appear The assay looks for stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung and liver malignancies, based on a new method reported in Nature Communications.

California Genetic Testing Company Agendia settles allegations of $8.25M Medicare Fraud

Pharma

Roche pays $775M upfront for Cambridge biotech’s sophomore cancer drug

23andMe and GSK Head to Clinical Trials With Cancer Drug

Miscellaneous

Amazon is piloting worker healthcare clinics near its warehouses The clinics are developed in partnership with Crossover Health which has built such facilities for Apple and Facebook, and was even rumored to be a potential target for an Apple acquisition a few years back.

This Company Wants to Rewrite the Future of Genetic Disease Tessera Therapeutics is developing a new class of gene editors capable of precisely plugging in long stretches of DNA – something that Crispr can’t do.

Retractions and controversies over coronavirus research show that the process of science is working as it should

‘Amazing, isn’t it?’ Long sought blood test for Alzheimer’s in reach

Noridian Aligns With Palmetto on Single-Gene, Multi-Gene PGx Test Coverage

Walgreens, DoorDash partner on nonprescription delivery orders

First studies from largest-ever human genome database released The Genome Aggregation Database aims to shed light on how genetic mutations can lead to disease.

Group calls for consistent use of genetic cancer terms A consortium of cancer patient advocacy groups and other stakeholders has recommended uniform use of common terms for biomarker and germline genetic testing to better educate the public and improve access.

NHGRI researchers generate complete human X chromosome sequence

COVID-19 Research: Women Are Changing the Face of the Pandemic The centenary of Rosalind Franklin’s birth is a fitting time to honor women leading the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Amazing, Isn’t It?’ Long Sought Blood Test for Alzheimer’s in Reach

A brief history of the future of genomics

Artificial Intelligence

IBM’s New AI Tool Parses A Tidal Wave of Coronavirus Research Deep Search uses an advanced cloud-based natural programming language tool.

Microbiome

A Citizen Scientist Makes Her Mark in Microbiome Research The BioCollective, a company that transforms whole stool samples into microbial metadata, is developing the US’s first national microbiome reference material.

A unified catalog of 204,938 reference genomes from the human gut microbiome

Microbiome therapeutics and patent protection Obtaining patent protection for microbiome therapeutics has been affected profoundly by the US Supreme Court decisions in Myriad and Mayo, which redefined the scope of which natural phenomena, including microbiome therapeutics, are patent eligible.

Digital Health/ Telemedicine

52% of Households Willing to Share Smartphone Data to aid in COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Uber launches service to help with COVID-19 contact tracing: report The contact tracing service will be provided for free, and is reportedly being introduced to public health officials in all countries where Uber operates. The service provides health departments with data about who used Uber’s services and when and allows health agencies to urge affected drivers and users to quarantine.

Publications

Rosalind Franklin was so much more than the ‘wronged heroine’ of DNA

When computational pipelines go ‘clank’ There are currently 17K tools in the bio.tools registry from more than 1,000 contributors. Makes pipeline building not easier!

Discovery of regulatory noncoding variants in individual cancer genomes by using cis-X

The histone H3-H4 tetramer is a copper reductase enzyme

Super-precise CRISPR tool enhanced by enzyme engineering

Structural cells are key regulators of organ-specific immune responses

Coffee, Caffeine, and Health Caffeine is “part of a healthy lifestyle” – 3-5 cups/day is consistently associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases (not for prevention).

Mergers and Acquisitions

Thermo Fisher sweetens bid for Qiagen by €1bn after investor criticism, following a surge in demand for its coronavirus-testing equipment that led investors to push the diagnostics-maker to secure a higher takeover price.

Thermo Fisher’s sweetened Qiagen bit fails to win over key investors.

Funding

  • Genome Medical raises $14M to expand virtual clinical genetics care and accelerate telemedicine technology development
  • Nucleai secured $6.5M Series A initial closing led by Debiopharm to advance AI-powered precision oncology platform
  • Sema4 closes $121M in Series C Led by BlackRock for a post-money valuation in excess of $1 billion
  • NIH boosts genomics initiatives with $75M funding

News for the month of June 2020

June brought big acquisitions! One of our longtime customer, BlueBee, was acquired by Illumina to unify its data analytics products, while DNAnexus announced a $100M Series G investment round. Check out our interview with Hans Cobben, CEO of Bluebee and now Vice President of Software Platforms and Applications at Illumina, regarding the impact of this acquisition on the future of genomics data analysis and genomics applications in the clinical setting. Additionally, WuXi NextCODE restructured to become Genuity Science, Foundation Medicine acquired Lexent Bio, and Invitae acquired ArcherDX to create a global leader in comprehensive cancer genetics and precision oncology. They will bring germline and somatic testing, liquid biopsy, and tissue genomic profiling onto a single platform to offer patients a full suite of cancer testing for risk, therapy optimization, and personalized cancer monitoring.

This June news update has been sponsored by:

COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2

Check out our “COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2” news page for a compilation of latest news and useful information.

NGS Genomics Platforms

Illumina Receives First FDA Emergency Use Authorization for a Sequencing-Based COVID-19 Diagnostic Test

PanCAN selects Seven Bridges for pancreatic cancer research to build a customised, integrated health data platform to accelerate research into pancreatic cancer.

Precision Medicine

QF scientists study Covid-19’s varying effect on different populations The interest is centered around how do genomic variations in hosts affect the way the virus behaves.

NorthShore makes genomic decision support available in Epic with help from ActX The health system has expanded its DNA-10K precision medicine program by integrating detailed pharmacogenomic information into its EHR workflows.

Geisinger, Siemens strike 10-year partnership which will give Geisinger access to Siemens’ diagnostic imaging equipment and digital health tools.

Collecting Genomic Data to Accelerate COVID-19 Drug Discovery Mount Sinai researchers have developed the COVID-19 Gene Set and Drug Library to leverage genomic data and facilitate collaborative drug discovery.

Seven Bridges Announces International Collaboration Focused on Personalized Treatment for Kids with Cancer

Genetic/ Genomic Testing

Palmetto GBA Issues Final Local Coverage Determination on Pharmacogenomic Testing for Medicare Beneficiaries

Recommendations for designing genetic test reports to be understood by patients and non-specialists   A set of UK specialists make recommendations that address high-level needs of patients and their non-specialist clinicians when receiving genetic test results.

Researchers Present Evidence in Support of Broad Next Generation Sequencing in Advanced Nonsquamous NSCLC

Liquid Biopsy

More gain, less pain with liquid biopsies

Digital Health/ Telemedicine

‘I can’t imagine going back’: Medicare leader Seema Verma calls for expanded telehealth access after Covid-19 as virtual visits have increased more than 40-fold in some parts of the country during the past three months.

Telehealth app Babylon Health allowed users to view other patients’ video consultations a data breach reported by a small number of users.

Artificial Intelligence

Interview with Insilico Medicine CEO Alex Zhavoronkov

Microbiome

Do Gut Bacteria Play a Role in Preecla

Patients with Hemorrhagic Brain Disease Have Distinct Gut Microbiomes

Miscellaneous

What’s next for healthcare in light of COVID-19 Darryl Jue of Accenture, Amanda Berra of Advisory Board, and Pete Masloski of ZS discuss how healthcare industry leaders must adapt to the forces that will become more prominent in the post-pandemic world.

Hospitals could struggle — and more will go bankrupt — until they get patients back in the door Many hospitals operated with thin margins before the Covid-19 crisis – April was one of the worst months ever for hospital operating margins.

The interface of genomic information with the electronic health record A points to consider statement of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (The ACMG).

It’s Time for a New Kind of Electronic Health Record The Covid-19 pandemic presents the U.S. health care system with a mind-boggling array of challenges.

23andMe says it’s ‘part of the problem’ on racial inequity STAT asked five experts in genetics and in health disparities to weigh on what 23andMe and its competitors should do to address these problems.

Combating sexual harassment The editorial explains how this action bolsters NIH’s efforts to foster a culture whereby sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviors are not tolerated in the research and training environment.

New consortium EUbOPEN will provide tools to unlock disease biology and aims to develop high quality chemical tool compounds for 1,000 proteins (one third of the druggable proteins in the human body).

Regulations on Genetic Data Could Threaten Genomics Innovation As genetic research relies more and more on digital technology, international regulations are straining to catch up and some fear they threaten to stifle innovation. Is it possible to develop a regulatory framework for genetic data that is fair for everyone?

GNS Healthcare Launches In Silico Multiple Myeloma “Patient”

Publications

A robust benchmark for detection of germline large deletions and insertions a Genome in a Bottle SV benchmark paper.

New DNA Sequencing technique may help unravel genetic diversity of cancer tumors Using a microfluidic-droplet-based single cell sequencing method, USC researchers have simultaneously sequenced the genomes of close to 1,500 single cells, revealing genetic diversity previously hidden in a well-studied melanoma cell line.

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. For many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.

CRISPR‐TAPE: protein‐centric CRISPR guide design has been developed for targeted proteome engineering.

Genetic risk score can predict timing of fractures in elderly people and aid prevention

3D facial scans could speed diagnoses for children with rare genetic diseases Researchers combine 3D imaging and machine learning to create prototype diagnostic tool.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Illumina Acquires BlueBee to Accelerate Processing, Analysis and Sharing of Next Generation Sequencing Data at Scale

Invitae and ArcherDX to create a global leader in comprehensive cancer genetics and precision oncology The ArcherDX acquisition transaction is valued at ~$1.4B and expected to close in several months, subject to customary closing conditions including approval by the stockholders of Invitae and ArcherDX.

WuXi NextCODE Restructures and Becomes Genuity Science

Foundation Medicine Acquires Lexent Bio, Inc., to Accelerate Liquid Biopsy Research and Development, and Advance Cancer Care

Partnership between Q2 solutions and Thermo Fisher Scientific to speed up oncology clinical trials

Funding

Base Genomics announces company launch and raises $11M USD to commercialize epigenetic technology for early and sensitive detection of cancer from liquid biopsy

DNAnexus Completes $100 Million Financing

ArcherDX drops IPO plans in favor of a $1.4B takeover by Invitae

Ranking of the 40 top startup hubs in the world The top five global startup ecosystems remain the same, although with some movement within them. Silicon Valley maintains its #1 position. New York remains at #2, although now London is up and tied with it. Beijing is at #4 and Boston is at #5.

News for the month of May 2020

This month seven Nature papers explore different scientific aspects of the gnomAD data collection which includes more than 140,000 exomes and genomes. genomAD is a critical resource that is used across the globe by clinical researchers and labs to annotate every single, disease causing candidate variant. Years of work went into the creation of the gnomAD database. 

This the while COVID-19 is disrupting healthcare and is giving telemedicine a boost – examples include Medicare & Medicaid services’ expansion of coverage of telehealth therapist visits. Additionally, COVID-19 constraints are pushing healthcare organizations to innovate around the consumer.

This May news update has been sponsored by:

COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2

Check out our “COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2” news page for a compilation of latest news and useful information.

NGS Genomics Platforms

DNAnexus has partnered with NVIDIA Clara Parabricks to accelerate NGS data processing

TrueGenomics Partners with BlueBee to Create the Next Generation Behavioral Science Data Ecosystem

Two years in, DRAGEN roars It has been two years since Illumina acquired Edico Genome and its DRAGEN™ technology. DRAGEN is fully integrated with Illumina sequencers, library prep kits, and a comprehensive software suite. This Illumina authored article discusses the details of the integrated, expanded sequencing portfolio.

Focusing on the Genes that Matter Most: 10x Genomics Launches Targeted Gene Expression Solution

Precision Medicine

Fitbit launches large-scale consumer health study to detect a-fib via heart rate sensors, algorithm The effort is looking to enroll 200,000 to 250,000 device owners and will support clinical evaluation and regulatory submissions of the company’s PPG atrial fibrillation algorithm.

Regeneron And Colorado Center For Personalized Medicine announce major new human genetics research collaboration to will sequence 450,000 informed and consenting patients. Sequencing data will be paired with de-identified health records to aid in genomic medicine, drug discovery, and personalized medicine approach.

Precision Medicine Vision Statement created by the Global Precision Medicine Council of the World Economic Forum.

QIAGEN launches QCI Interpret One which combines QIAGEN Clinical Insights solutions with N-of-One services to deliver interpretation of somatic variants in cancer patients.

Apple Heart Study researchers find success in recruitment, struggle with engagement The challenges are engagement. It’s not easy to do this & keep patients involved. You can’t keep sending them notifications & push alerts to remind them to do this in the study.

Tech optimization: Unlocking the promise of precision medicine In this special report, seven experts in personalized medicine – from Accenture, CereCore, Chilmark Research, Deloitte and Orion Health – offer best practices for optimizing technology to help health systems advance innovation.

All of Us Research Program Begins Beta Testing of Data Platform – Researchers Invited to Give Feedback on Initial Dataset and Tools

CRISPR/ Cas-9

First CRISPR test for the coronavirus approved in the United States The Sherlock Biosciences developed kit works by programming the CRISPR machinery to detect a snippet of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in a nose, mouth or throat swab, or in fluid from the lungs. If the virus’s genetic material is found, a CRISPR enzyme generates a fluorescent glow. The test can return results in about an hour.

Digital Health/ Telemedicine

How coronavirus accelerated the rise of telemedicine

CMS expands COVID-19 telehealth reimbursement to therapists, phone services

COVID-19 constraints push healthcare organizations to innovate around the consumer

Amazon extends telemedicine pilot to warehouse employees in Seattle area

Premera Blue Cross is launching its first-ever virtual primary care plan The virtual primary care plan, dubbed Premera Now, is developed in partnership with primary care telehealth company 98point6. The plan will be available to employers in Washington state starting October 1st.

Miscellaneous

Meet this super-spotter of duplicated images in science papers Elisabeth Bik quit her job to spot errors in research papers — and has become the public face of image sleuthing.

Apple and Google launch exposure notification API, enabling public health authorities to release apps

Microsoft announces Cloud for Healthcare, first industry-specific cloud service

Natera and Illumina Settle Patent Dispute

Google develops AI to identify patients at high risk of blindness

An interview with Mike Klein, CEO of Genomenon He talks to RARE Revolution about the impact technology is having on diagnosing rare diseases and contributing to drug development, and about the exciting potential that lays ahead.

Artificial Intelligence

NVIDIA has developed new artificial intelligence and genomic sequencing capabilities to help researchers track and treat COVID-19

Publications

Years of work went into gnomAD which is now up at Nature  7 peer-reviewed papers explore different scientific aspects of this data collection which includes more than 140,000 exomes and genomes.

New computational method unravels single-cell data from multiple people The methodology called souporcell, for assigning the donor in single cell RNA sequencing experiments, provides an accurate way to unravel data from a mixture of people.

The human tumor microbiome is composed of tumor type–specific intracellular bacteria

Pan-cancer analysis of advanced patient tumors reveals interactions between therapy and genomic landscapes

Mergers and Acquisitions

Roche acquires Stratos Genomics to further develop DNA based sequencing for diagnostic use

Merck to Acquire Austrian Vaccine Maker Themis Bioscience to enter COVID-19 race  Themis has a broad pipeline of vaccine candidates and immune-modulatory therapies developed using its innovative measles virus vector platform based on a vector originally developed by scientists at the Institut Pasteur and licensed exclusively to Themis for select viral indications. 

UnitedHealth’s Optum is in advanced talks to acquire remote mental health provider AbleTo for about $470 million

NanoString and OnRamp BioInformatics Partner to Develop Cloud-Based Analysis Solutions for nCounter Data

Gilead Sciences and Arcus Biosciences Establish 10-year Partnership to Co-develop and Co-commercialize Next-generation Cancer Immunotherapies

Funding

GRAIL announces $390 million series D financing

Immunai raises $20M to provide a complete understanding of the immune system with single cell profiling

Nautilus emerges with $76M in Series B to become the ‘Illumina of proteomics’

Benchling raises $50M series D to accelerate biotech revolution This brings the total funding to $114M at a valuation of $850M.

Synthetic bio pioneer Ginkgo raises $70 million to tackle Covid-19 testing

Syapse announces $30M financing to advance the use of real-world evidence

Oxford Nanopore announces £48.4M ($59.2M) in new capital to support ongoing innovation and the rapid worldwide growth of nanopore sequencing

San Francisco startup Arterys dealing in cloud-based AI imaging technology raises $28M

News for the month of April 2020

In April, the scientific community worldwide focused on studying COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 with the goal of finding a treatment and a vaccine. The race for coronavirus vaccines is on with more than 90 vaccines currently being developed in companies and universities across the world, the new Gilead remdesivir data likely show enough for a speedy FDA approval, and the NIH is mobilizing a national innovation initiative (RADx) for COVID-19 diagnostics with a $1.5 billion investment from federal stimulus funding to speed development of rapid and widely accessible COVID-19 testing. COVID-19 news is coming out at such a rapid pace that we are sharing highlights on a dedicated “COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2” news page, while here we report our regular precision medicine and genetics news for the month of April.

COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2

Check out our “COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2” news page for a compilation of useful information.

Precision Medicine

Protected Health Information filter (Philter): accurately and securely de-identifying free-text clinical notes
The Butte Lab manually deidentified 4500 notes of 100 different kinds (out of 70 million), used 2500 to build and 2000 to test. Two annotators per note. This might be the largest set of deidentified notes disclosed to date.

Google Cloud launches Healthcare API and other solutions for supporting healthcare and life sciences organizations during the pandemic
The API allows healthcare organizations to ingest and manage key data from a range of inputs and systems – and then better understand that data through the application of analytics and machine learning in real time, at scale.

Personalized Medicine Approach May Extend Polygenic Scores to Individuals with Multiple Ancestral Origins
Proposes a method to extend polygenic scores—the estimate of genetic risk factors and a cornerstone of the personalized medicine revolution—to individuals with multiple ancestral origins.

ONC Projects Aim to Standardize SDOH Data for Precision Medicine

World’s leading biobanks join BC Platforms’ Global Data Partner Network to advance personalized healthcare research

Miscellaneous

Craig Venter: 20 years of decoding the human genome
The human genome is 99% decoded, the American geneticist Craig Venter announced two decades ago. What has the deciphering brought us since then?

Google will guide users to virtual doctor’s visits through Search and Maps
This will make it easier for consumers to access virtual medical care options, via Search and Maps which will also help doctors get up to speed with phone and video-based consultations.

Publications

GWAS of three molecular traits highlights core genes and pathways alongside a highly polygenic background

Ancestry deconvolution and partial polygenic score can improve susceptibility predictions in recently admixed individuals

Cytokine release syndrome in severe COVID-19

Liquid Biopsy

Liquid biopsy test detects more than 50 cancer types
Grail said results of its Circulating Cell-Free Genome Atlas study show its technology can detect 50 cancer types across all stages with a very low false-positive rate.

Merger and Acquisition

Genalyte expands laboratory services offering with acquisition of BaseHealth

Funding

Digital health firms raised record sums before Covid-19 hit
Digital health startups raised a total of $3.1 billion in funding during the first quarter of 2020, according to a report released Monday by Rock Health. But startups face a dramatically different investing climate post-Covid-19.

African genomics startup 54gene raises $15M in Series A

Lifebit Closes $7.5M Series A Round to Accelerate Global Market Expansion

Invitae Announces Pricing of Public Offering of Common Stock

BRIEF-Invitae Corp Withdrawing Its Revenue, Test Volume And Cash Burn Guidance For 2020

News for the month of March 2020

In March, the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, reached every aspect and even the most remote corner of our daily lives. We, therefore, have decided to compile a list of relevant news and announcements, developments, and useful links in relation to this viral outbreak on a “COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2” news page

Also noteworthy this month was that the government released rules aimed at better EHR interoperability, citing that it is vital for information to flow during outbreaks like COVID-19. Epic Systems Corp. had initially opposed the rules but it is not clear yet if the updates made addressed its concerns about privacy and costs.

Coronavirus

The COVID-19 situation is rapidly changing. For this reason, we have dedicated an entire page, the COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 news page, where we list important announcements and resource links pertaining to this virus. We will update this page on a regular basis. Here just a few COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 highlights. 

Cryptic transmission of novel coronavirus revealed by genomic epidemiology
An informative piece on genomic epidemiology applied to COVID-19.  It is encouraging that we can sequence, share and analyze pathogen data so quickly today.

Over 24,000 coronavirus research papers are now available in one place
The data set aims to accelerate scientific research that could fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CDC has started started a collection of SARS-CoV-2 sequencing and bioinformatic protocols, metadata guidance, scripts/workflows, links and best practices
SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing Resources..

UK launches whole genome sequence alliance to map spread of coronavirus with £20 million investment
COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium – comprised of the NHS, Public Health Agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and numerous academic institutions – will deliver large scale, rapid sequencing of the cause of the disease and share intelligence with hospitals, regional NHS centres and the government.

Genetics/Genomics Testing

Blue Shield of California becomes first health plan in the U.S. to cover the cost of rapid whole genome sequencing for critically ill children
Critically ill children, up to age 18, hospitalized in neonatal or pediatric intensive care at any location with an undiagnosed condition may be eligible.

You can learn a lot about yourself from a DNA test. Here’s what your genes cannot tell you
A Time magazine article discussing the pros and cons of genetic testing.

Whole genome sequencing Under GenomeIndia project started
The proposed target of WSG is to do it for 10,000 individuals representing the country’s diverse population.

Mayo researchers recommend all women with breast cancer diagnosis under age 66 be offered genetic testing
A study by researchers at Mayo Clinic published this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that all women with a breast cancer diagnosis under the age of 66 be offered germline genetic testing to determine if they have a gene mutation known to increase the risk of developing other cancers and cancers among blood relatives.

Invitae and Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Expand Access to No-Charge Genetic Testing in the U.S. and Canada

NGS/ Genomics

$100 genome sequencing will yield a treasure trove of genetic data
BGI claims it has created a system that can sequence a full genome for just $100.

Precision Medicine

Most comprehensive analysis of human genetic diversity to date
A new study has provided the most comprehensive analysis of human genetic diversity to date, after the sequencing of 929 human genomes by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge and their collaborators.

Precision medicine: course correction urgently needed
An undeclared civil war is breaking out in biomedicine. On one side is precision medicine, with its emphasis on tailoring treatments to ever-narrower groups of patients. On the other side is population health, which emphasizes predominantly preventive interventions that have broad applications across populations.

New Genomics Clinic Will Enable Preventive Care, Precision Medicine
The Preventive Genomics Clinic at Mass General will provide patients with genetic information and advance precision medicine.

Janssen Taps Digital Biomarker Company Vivante Health for Predictive Disease Modeling
The goal of the collaboration with digital medicine company Vivante Health is to identify and develop digital biomarkers.

Henry Ford Receives $25M Grant to Expand Precision Medicine Program The grant will be used to accelerate its precision medicine program, with the ultimate goal of creating a Precision Health Center.

How genomics is transforming cancer treatment

Ultra-fast genome sequencing could save the lives of newborns

Data Sharing/ Data Privacy

Gov’t takes steps toward better EHR interoperability
Hospitals and doctors to provide software access points/endpoints to their [EHR] databases so that patients can download these records to their smartphones.

Federal rules impacting Epic Systems Corp., patient data released
The rule requires full exports of patient data, beginning in three years, to patients or hospitals if requested.

Many willing to trade genetic data for compensation, control
More than half of Americans want money and control when companies or organizations use their genetic data, a new study suggests.

Digital Health/ Telemedicine

Coronavirus response could give long-awaited jolt to telehealth
Telehealth may be about to boom as federal officials push doctors to video chat with patients, hoping to reduce stress on hospitals preparing for a flood of coronavirus cases.

Telemedicine companies are struggling to serve ‘extreme volumes’ of patients as coronavirus calls surge
Telemedicine companies are struggling to serve ‘extreme volumes’ of patients as coronavirus calls surge.

Miscellaneous

Amazon is secretly working on a cure for the common cold

Mergers, Partnerships, & Acquisitions

Thermo Fisher is buying Qiagen for $11.5 billion
The transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2021.

Invitae acquires Diploid, maker of artificial intelligence engine to enable clinical diagnosis using whole-genome sequencing in minutes

Publications

An atlas of the protein-coding genes in the human, pig, and mouse brain
Accessible via the open-access HPA Brain Atlas resource portal which offers the opportunity to explore individual genes and classes of genes and their expression profiles in the various parts of the mammalian brain.

AI finds microbial signatures in tumours and blood across cancer types
Analysis of nucleic-acid sequences from human cancers, along with samples from adjacent tissue and blood, reveals the presence of microorganisms in tumours and blood across cancers.

AI is being used to discover new antibiotics and genes linked to disease

Genome sequencing method identifies genes resistant to chemotherapy

AI Discovers Smell Genes Linked To Cancer Outcomes

WGS study in Finns Finds Genes Linked with Diabetic Nephropathy

Funding

Tempus raises $100 million in Series G financing at a post-money valuation of $5 billion dollars
The company is using the additional funds to further enhance its operations and continue its expansion into other disease areas, including diabetes, depression, and cardiology.

Cell and gene therapy company ElevateBio raises $170M in Series B

Impossible Foods Continues Growth Trajectory With $500M Series F

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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