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A pan-Pacific partnership
GUANGZHOU, China & SAN DIEGO—Illumina Inc. and Burning Rock, a diagnostics company focused on molecular testing for the improvement of individualized treatment guidance for cancer patients, are joining forces in a newly announced agreement, under which Burning Rock will develop advanced clinical applications for molecular diagnostics in oncology based on Illumina’s next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology.
This collaboration will seek to offer the most advanced, integrated sequencing solutions for the clinical market by uniting Illumina sequencing technology with the advanced clinical application development capabilities of Burning Rock. A particular focus will be the development of a user-friendly, oncology molecular diagnostic kit for the Chinese market. Under this agreement, the first between the two organizations, Burning Rock will provide its nucleic acid extraction, library preparation and data analysis software, with Illumina providing NGS instrument components and related reagents. No additional details for the deal were made available.
“We have been working to promote the clinical application of genomic technology in China. Oncology molecular diagnosis based on NGS, including non-invasive testing, is being applied in the clinic, and we hope to promote it as a standard practice in hospitals. As the leader in oncology molecular diagnosis, Burning Rock is now very pleased to partner with Illumina, the global leader in sequencing and array-based technologies. Cooperation between our two companies will provide additional high-quality molecular diagnostic solutions in the clinical field of oncology,” commented Yusheng Han, founder and CEO of Burning Rock, in a statement regarding the agreement.
Burning Rock’s state-of-art molecular and pathological examination platform features NGS, qPCR, immunohistochemistry, fluorescence in-situ hybridization and digital pathology. John Leite, vice president of oncology at Illumina, comments that Burning Rock “brings capabilities in designing and validating panels, and also in creating accompanying databases” to the collaboration.
“As the number of targeted therapeutics in oncology expands, so does the number of genes that require genetic analysis,” Leite says of the need for more diagnostic options. “Laboratories struggle to develop diagnostic molecular tests on a single platform that can scale to their needs. Next-generation sequencing offers multiplex capability from a single gene to thousands, can detect sequence variants, structural and copy number variants, as well as differential mRNA expression capability.”
Illumina declined to comment on which of its technologies would be focused on in this agreement, but there is no shortage of options to choose from. Illumina’s MiSeq System offers an ideal solution for sequencing targeted panels, amplicons and small genomes. The MiSeqDx System was designed specifically for clinical laboratories, and is the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared in-vitro diagnostic NGS system. The company’s NextSeq 500 System combines high-throughput sequencing with the simplicity of desktop sequencers, while the HiSeq 2500 System enables large-scale high-throughput exome, transcriptome and whole-genome sequencing projects. Illumina’s HiSeq X Ten, according to the company, “is the first sequencing platform that breaks the $1,000 barrier for a 30x human genome.”
Illumina’s NGS differs from the classic Sanger chain-termination method; instead, Illumina’s tech applies sequencing by synthesis technology, which tracks the addition of labeled nucleotides as the DNA chain is copied, in a massively parallel fashion.
“Illumina is very excited to collaborate with Burning Rock to increase access to oncology diagnosis solutions in China,” Dr. Rick Klausner, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Illumina, said in a news release. “We are committed to partnering with Chinese companies who share our vision of improving human health by unlocking the power of the genome.”
Indeed, this is the second diagnostic agreement with a Chinese partner for Illumina this summer. On June 10, the company announced that, together with Beijing-based Annoroad, it would be jointly developing advanced clinical applications for reproductive health based on NGS technology. The two will work together on the development of a user-friendly, prenatal DNA diagnostic system for the Chinese market, uniting Illumina’s sequencer technology with Annoroad’s advanced clinical application development capabilities.