GE ropes in Texas genomics company

GE Healthcare completes acquisition of SeqWright, expanding capabilities in fast- growing molecular diagnostic segment

Jeffrey Bouley
CHALFONT ST GILES, England—In early April, GE Healthcare, aGE-owned company, completed its acquisition of Houston, Texas-based SeqWrightInc., a provider of nucleic acid sequencing and other genomic services, now setto become part of GE Healthcare's Clarient business unit, which is focused ondeveloping novel, proprietary diagnostic markers and tests for the profiling ofbreast, lung and colon cancers, melanoma and blood-based cancers. Financialterms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
 
 
Part of the reason for the acquisition was to addcomplementary genomics capabilities to Clarient, a player in the fast-growingmolecular diagnostics sector, as well as to provide a platform for Clarient toexpand its clinical diagnostic offerings to include next-generation sequencing.
 
 
"Sequencing,including next-generation sequencing, is a critical technology for GE's medicaldiagnostics business. The acquisition of a laboratory like SeqWright, which haslong-standing expertise in the field as well as an established customer base,allows us immediate entry into this space and is an ideal complement toClarient's existing PCR and IHC testing in support of pharmaceutical and in-vitro diagnostic studies," Carrie Eglinton-Manner, CEO ofClarient, tells ddn, adding thatnegotiations with SeqWright began nearly a year ago, in mid-2011.
 
 
"Understanding how genetic variation at the molecular levelimpacts disease is critical in the continued discovery and development of newand more effective therapies, and increasingly in the management of patientcare through the use of more precise diagnostic tests," said Pascale Witz,president and CEO of GE Healthcare's Medical Diagnostics business, in the newsrelease about the acquisition.
 
 
Eglinton-Manner notes that sequencing technology, includingnext-generation systems, has matured to a point where it makes good sense tostart incorporating the platform technology on a more routine basis whenconducting biomarker research and thinking about clinical practice.
 
"The scalability and cost of the technology has alsostabilized within the last couple of years to a point where it can beincorporated into a research and diagnostic workflow," she says. "Furthermore,our customers' understanding of the technology and its value has reached apoint where we are seeing more large-scale adoption taking place, andconsideration of routine use has occurred."
 
 
Given those technology and market changes and SeqWright'sstrengths, the acquisition "made sense now," Eglinton-Manner adds.
 
 
"As a CLIA-certified service provider, we are in a positionto capitalize on the growing role next- and third -generation DNA sequencingtechnologies will play in clinical diagnostics," said Fei Lu, president and CEOof SeqWright, in the official statement about the deal. "This partnership willput us in a position to apply the power of new direct detection technologies toclinical and companion diagnostics, potentially revolutionizing the wayhealthcare decisions are made."
 
 
In addition, GE Healthcare notes, SeqWright has "anextensive history" of projects that focus on clinical trial and regulatorysupport for companion diagnostic submissions.
Although SeqWright and GE Healthcare had never workedtogether directly before now, SeqWright and GE have worked on sponsor-relatedprojects where Clarient was conducting non-sequencing-based testing on samplesand SeqWright was doing the sequencing, Eglinton-Manner says, noting that "Thisallowed us to experience the brand recognition as well as the quality of workprovided by SeqWright."
 
GE and Clarient plan to retain the existing leadership teamat SeqWright and the SeqWright employees will remain in Houston to serve aspart of Clarient's Houston-based sequencing laboratory.
 
 
"The acquisition of SeqWright by GE Healthcare is aboutgrowth," Eglinton-Manner says. "It is an acquisition of a business that trulyadds new competence and new technologies. GE Healthcare values the employeesthat will be joining the company as part of this acquisition. The expertise andknowledge of SeqWright's employees will be key in the continuing growth of thebusiness." 


 
GE Healthcare, Dyax ink oncology licensing deal
 
 
CHALFONT ST GILES, England—GE Healthcare also announced lastmonth, along with Dyax Corp., a licensing agreement for the development andcommercialization of peptides binding to c-Met, which provides upfront,milestone and royalty payments to Dyax.
 
Research of potential diagnostic applications and use as apatient selection biomarker in oncology will be explored by GE Healthcare incollaboration with academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies. Thelicense includes application of the peptides in positron emission tomography(PET), single proton emission computed tomography (SPECT) and optical imaging.
 
 
"Growth factor receptors such as c-Met are promisingtherapeutic targets that could be a critical factor in the development ofcolorectal, lung and liver oncology drugs," said Marivi Mendizabal, head ofresearch at GE Healthcare Medical Diagnostics, in a statement. "As in-vivo imaging technologies become increasingly importantin oncology drug development, our vision is that we will be able to rapidlydevelop new targeted molecular diagnostics—not just for our own clinicalportfolio, but as 'companion' diagnostic offerings for our strategic biopharmaceuticalpartnerships."
 
"This agreement validates the strength of Dyax's core phagedisplay library technology to support GE Healthcare's work to aid thedevelopment of cutting-edge treatment options for patients," added GustavChristensen, president and CEO of Dyax. "With 18 Dyax-derived antibody orpeptide programs currently in human clinical trials, we continue to demonstratethe utility of Dyax's proven and highly successful engine to power boththerapeutic and diagnostic development."

Jeffrey Bouley

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