To cancer and beyond

CollabRx Partners with Sengenics for molecular diagnostics, with cancer as initial focus area

Jeffrey Bouley
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SAN FRANCISCO—Bay Area-based CollabRx Inc., a provider ofcloud-based expert systems to inform healthcare decision-making, announced inearly April that it has forged a partnership with Asian genetic diagnosticscompany Sengenics to provide turnkey diagnostic decision-making solutions. 
This marked the second time in a week that CollabRx hadinked an international deal, having earlier announced the beginning of amulti-year agreement under which Belgian company OncoDNA SA, a provider of DNAnext-generation sequencing tests for clinical use in cancer, will employCollabRx's software as a service (SaaS) offerings to use in conjunction withOncoDNA's cancer mutation panels.
Sengenics plans to incorporate CollabRx's interpretivecontent resources into its molecular cancer diagnostics tests and reports, thusoffering cancer exome sequencing tests combined with interpretive analyticsthat will "create a comprehensive medical informatics solution." The solutionis being designed with the goal of seamlessly pairing test results withclinically actionable and dynamically updated knowledge on the clinical impactof specific tumor genetic profiles and associated therapeutic strategies suchas drugs and clinical trials. CollabRx will provide the content in a SaaS-basedbusiness model. 
"Sengenics has become a widely recognized pioneer in thisfield, as it was the first company outside the U.S. to offer genomics-basedresearch and diagnostic services," said Thomas Mika, chairman, president andCEO of CollabRx, in the news release about the deal. "CollabRx has establishedan industry standard for interpretive reporting in cancer diagnostics, whichthis agreement helps to expand globally. We also look forward to working withSengenics to expand our interpretive content to genomic disease areas outsideof cancer." 
"As the cost of next-gen sequencing drops, market penetrationin the clinical space is expected to go through the roof," adds Dr. Gavin J.Gordon, the head of business development and alliances for CollabRx. "I thinkwe're at the tipping point for that already, and I foresee some realacceleration in the next three or four years, especially in areas like cancerand inherited diseases." 
Gordon adds that Sengenics has a pretty mature business, butit hasn't explored it much for cancer, and they were looking in part to seewhat CollabRx could provide to help get them into that area.
"For us, Asia is very important—the rest of the world is,too, of course, but the research says the sequencing market will be growingfast in Asia and will soon eclipse the United States, particularly if you addthe European market into the mix as well," Gordon says. "We want to shift oureffort toward where the greatest part of the growth is expected to happen. Thisdeal is very timely and carefully considered; there is nothing random aboutit."
In fact, this deal could be seen as part of a definitivetrend.
"If you look as some of our other recent announcements anddeals in the cancer space," Gordon notes, "like our new molecular oncologyboard and a Life Technologies deal where we do much the same thing as we aredoing with Sengenics, you can see that Sengenics is really representative of anoverall strategy for our company."
The partnership leverages CollabRx's semantic integrationplatform, which is a scalable, proprietary technology that enables CollabRxscientists and physicians to dynamically update the company's molecularoncology knowledge base with the latest medical and scientific data availablein the public domain.
"We are excited about partnering with CollabRx anddeveloping such an important turnkey solution for clinical cancer sequencing,"said Dr. Arif Anwar, executive director of Singapore-based Sengenics, in anofficial statement. "Our joint solution's ability to provide insights fromCollabRx's clinical practitioner network represents critical and timely value tophysicians when they are interpreting test results."
Sengenics has a portfolio of more than 400 genetic tests fordevelopmental delay, rare genetic disorders, cardiac risk, thalassaemia andcancer. CollabRx says that the partnership, which leverages Sengenics' statusas a prominent commercial entity in the genomics and diagnostics space, willnow extend CollabRx's business to three continents: North America, Europe andAsia.
Although the companies have not worked together before thisdeal, Gordon notes that he has known Anwar since the time he worked for anotherAsian company called Synamatix.
"When I was working at Harvard Medical School, our largercollective group contracted with Synamatix to do bioinformatics and dataprocessing, and so he's been a friend of mine for the better part of 12 years,"Gordon recalls. "That's where it all started. I moved on from my jobs and hemoved on but we kept in touch off and on. Things restarted with us in aprofessional capacity and his current company when they made a decision to puta bigger sales and marketing effort behind their sequencing service becausethey wanted to tap the clinical market. We got back in touch late last yearbecause of that. The timing was right for us and both of our companies."
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