CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Once on its way to capturing the genomic information of every person in its native Iceland, then acquired by Amgen late last year, deCODE genetics has now granted NextCODE Health an exclusive license for sequence-based clinical diagnostic applications. NextCODE, a new private company enabling accelerated diagnosis of genetic diseases through the use of sequence data, also announced that it has secured $15 million in Series A financing from Polaris Partners and ARCH Venture Partners, which will allow NextCODE to rapidly scale up the integration of its genomics services into clinical settings.
deCODE was acquired by Amgen in December 2012 for just north of $400 million. In early 2013 in a release that detailed its strategic plan, Amgen specifically cited deCODE as being part of that plan. Dr. Sean E. Harper, executive vice president of research and development at Amgen, discussed the company’s new strategic approach to R&D and provided highlights of the company’s ongoing clinical programs, saying: “Amgen is uniquely positioned to shape the future of biotechnology. Our new R&D strategy embraces a ‘pick the winners’ approach, which takes advantage of the knowledge we’ve gained from decades of experience and our industry-leading position in human genetics that has resulted from our acquisition of deCODE.”
NextCODE will hold a five-year exclusive license to use the genomics platform developed by deCODE genetics—including IT infrastructure and data analysis capabilities—for sequence-based clinical diagnostic applications. Refined over more than 16 years, the platform is touted as the first system shown to be capable of analyzing individual genomes on a significant scale and has successfully managed nearly half a million genomes, and it has resulted in the publication of more than 350 major peer-reviewed studies and discoveries in scientific and medical journals, stated the press release announcing the deal.
People are also on the move from deCODE to NextCODE. Hannes Smarason, who served as chief financial officer and executive vice president of business and finance of deCODE genetics between 1997 and 2004, has been named CEO of NextCODE. He is joined by deCODE genetics co-founder and former chief scientific officer Dr. Jeff Gulcher, who will serve as president and chief scientific officer of the new company. Smarason and Gulcher are joined by Daniel C. Siu, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. Siu brings 24 years of business experience to NextCODE and, as another deCODE alum, previously served as a managing director at deCODE with responsibility for the genomics service and genetic test business in North America and Asia Pacific from 2005 to 2011.
NextCODE is now working with physicians and geneticists to accelerate and expand their ability to diagnose patients through the rapid identification of causative genes and mutations. The company is already generating revenue through service agreements with multiple clinical centers, including Queensland University in Australia, Boston Children’s Hospital in the United States, Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and Saitama University in Japan, the release added.
“Our vision is to transform patient diagnosis and resultant care through the rapid and accurate use of genome sequence data, and we are deploying the most powerful tools ever developed to make this vision a reality,” said Smarason. “These tools will enable us to provide clinically relevant insights to physicians and geneticists with unrivaled speed and accuracy. We are proud to build on deCODE’s legacy of discovery as we deliver capabilities needed to meet the urgent needs of patients and physicians today.”
Genomics data generated by next-generation sequencing technologies have become increasingly important to many aspects of healthcare, from diagnosing disease to defining patients’ risk for specific illnesses and selecting the most effective treatments for an individual patient. However, the widespread application of genomics data in clinical care is hindered by the need to systematically manage and evaluate massive volumes of big data that are required to filter out false positives, detect high-impact variants and provide an accurate diagnosis.
In summarizing their goals, the new company states “NextCODE will leverage deCODE’s Genomic Ordered Relational database infrastructure and sequence analysis systems, and will continue to develop these systems for specific needs associated with clinical research and care. Analysis will be supported by access to deCODE’s substantial, proprietary knowledge base that includes more than 40 million validated variants, representing the world’s largest collection of genetic variants paired with clinical data. This technology solution will enable NextCODE’s customers to manage and successfully analyze genomics data at a large scale without investing in a substantial IT infrastructure.”
DDNews’ attempts to obtain additional comment from NextCODE and Amgen were unsuccessful as of press time.