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Genestack and CMDL enter collaboration
June 2016
by Ilene Schneider  |  Email the author
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CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Genestack, the developer of a next-generation enterprise platform for genomics research and development, has partnered with the Cancer Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory (CMDL) to bring advanced genomic technologies into clinical practice. CMDL is an organization involving Cancer Research UK, the University of Cambridge, the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Medical Research Council.
 
“The collaboration with CMDL came about through a funding scheme with the MRC, which aims to foster collaborations for Cambridge University with industry through exchange placements,” explained Misha Kapushesky, CEO of Genestack. “CMDL develops advanced cancer diagnostics assays for use in hospitals and needed an easy-to-use informatics solution that could be used by non-bioinformatics specialists in a diagnostic laboratory. It also needed a system that could support a range of tests, be extensible and wasn’t tied to an existing technology or device platform.”
 
The idea was to use informatics technologies to improve patient care and save time and money. CMDL wanted to improve the prognosis and post-treatment monitoring of bone marrow transplant patients. Genestack’s platform will be used as the basis for incorporating advanced genomic technologies into clinical practice, using next-generation sequencing to develop a fast sequence to report solution for the prognosis and post-treatment monitoring of bone marrow transplant patients.
 
CMDL provides the data, the idea and reasoning behind the test and specialized knowledge about how the test works. Genestack provides the platform, the implementation, optimization and reporting for the test, as well as its eventual integration into the clinical laboratory setting, connecting it to relevant internal systems. CMDL and Genestack work together with other medical specialists and lab personnel to co-design every aspect of the test, from data gathering to report production and delivery into the electronic health record system in the hospital.
 
“This will see cutting-edge genomic techniques directly applied to developing new methods for the advanced diagnosis and clinical management of cancer,” Kapuskesky said. “In addition, the platform can be used to store all relevant patient data on a secure and easily accessible system. Researchers can improve patient care and save time and money.”
 
He added, “Genestack worked with CMDL to develop an app that could be used to assesses the extent to which donor grafts have been accepted in bone marrow transplant cases. The chimerism test, which is scheduled to launch in 2016, monitors how much of the patient's blood is made by the graft cells and the extent to which the patient's cells are making blood. If more of the patient's own cells are still making blood, it could indicate the transplant has failed, or a return of the cancer.”
 
As Kapushesky explained, “This is possible through the strength of Genestack’s universal platform, which combines end to end data processing, through reporting and the ability to further analyze that data. This makes the Genestack platform ideal for translational work where scientists want to go rapidly from research to application.”
 
Kapushesky believes that the Genestack platform is ideal for integrating with a range of applications, because it “provides a complete operating system for data processing, combined with the ability to custom-tune a visual report for its users.” In addition, he said, the Genestack team has considerable experience in working closely with researchers in taking ideas from concept to product.
 
If successful, the use of the Genestack platform in clinical care could be adopted more widely. The partnership is also being used by Genestack to test new models of deploying its platform, via a custom-built appliance, which could include the development of specific packages around areas such as clinical care, disease surveillance and monitoring and agri-genomics.
 
This collaboration is the first use of the Genestack platform in a clinical setting. Although developed as a research tool, the platform can be used in a range of clinical and research environments. The platform enables users to import complex data. Using an analytical pipeline, it can build a report that clinicians can understand and use to improve patient care.
 
“In the short term, this has the potential to reduce the cost of such a test at least tenfold, meaning that doctors will be able to monitor patients more frequently, impacting on the quality of treatment and speed with which problems can be detected,” Kapushesky commented. “Then, more broadly, we expect this to serve as springboard for further tests we could develop with CMDL. We have several ideas we are exploring, around immunotherapy and residual disease tracking, as well as others. Finally, this opens new avenues for Genestack in different settings and ways of adoption.”
 
He concluded, “If successful, this could see the Genestack platform adopted more widely, both in the development of new treatments, but also allowing clinicians to adapt existing treatments according to the specific genomic background of the patient. Through partnerships such as this, we aim to use the latest in genomic technology to provide real benefits for patients.”
 
Dr. George Vassiliou, lead clinician for CMDL-Haematology, said, “Our collaboration with Genestack is enabling us to take what is a research tool into the clinic, in a manner that is user-friendly for diagnostic scientists and doctors. We look forward to taking on other similar and larger projects to facilitate the transfer of genomics to clinical medicine.”
 
Code: E061620

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