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Promising diagnosis for success
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Knome, a human genomics company focused on providing secure, state-of-the- art sequencing and analysis solutions, announced in late April a strategic agreement with Marcy l'Etoile, France-based in vitro diagnostics company bioMérieux to collaborate in the development of next-generation, sequence-based in vitro diagnostics.
Under the agreement, bioMérieux will have exclusive rights to license Knome's proprietary genome analysis platform for use in the in vitro diagnostics market, while Knome will gain access to bioMérieux's intellectual property in DNA extraction and sample preparation.
In addition, the deal also has bioMérieux purchasing a $5 million equity stake in Knome.
"We are living at a time of extraordinary technological innovation in genetics. Medicine 2.0 is literally being written before our eyes," said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of bioMérieux, in a news release announcing the deal. "We are very excited to be working with Knome—their expertise in human genome analytics combined with our unique knowledge of in vitro diagnostics will allow us to create the diagnostic tools of tomorrow."
"Knome understands the importance of building informative software tools to convey genomic insights to researchers, families and ultimately clinicians," Knome CEO Jorge Conde tells ddn. "By developing robust and intuitive applications for interpreting genome data, Knome is ideally suited to work with bioMérieux to develop the next generation of sequence-based diagnostics."
He continues by noting that "bioMérieux is a global leader in the field of in vitro diagnostics and is seeking ways to integrate new technologies into the development of novel diagnostics. Looking to collaborate in the field of genomic sequencing, Knome stood out as a company specializing in genome analysis. It also helped that both companies are located within a few blocks from each other in Cambridge."
This deal marks the first time that a company has taken an equity stake in Knome, Conde says.
"Up until the bioMérieux investment, Knome had been funded entirely by private investors," he notes. "This agreement with bioMérieux fits directly in line with the long term goals of the company—Knome aims to become the premier genetic interpretation company. The applications for DNA-based analysis are wide-ranging, from research to clinical medicine, and it will be difficult for us to commercially pursue each opportunity. As such, we have been seeking to partner with world-class companies to jointly develop the next-generation of DNA-based analysis tools. As a world leader in the field of in vitro diagnostics, bioMérieux will be an ideal partner for Knome as they develop the next generation of diagnostics."
Large-scale genome sequencing has not yet been applied to in vitro diagnostics, Conde says, calling the collaboration between bioMérieux and Knome "a first" in this regard. "But there is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the reliability of the information procured from sequencing," he adds. "This technology will lead to more unique gene sequences that can potentially lead to more customized patient therapies. In the future, this will enable medicine to move away from a protocol based treatment to more customized/personal therapy—essentially ushering in the era of personalized medicine."
Multiplex DNA sequencing for molecular diagnostics development is part of bioMérieux's 2015 strategic road map unveiled on March 8, the companies note, and bioMérieux intends to develop next-generation cancer and infectious disease diagnostics using Knome's proprietary sequence analysis technology and bioinformatic tools. The bioMérieux team will be led by bioMérieux's recently appointed chief technology officer, Alain Pluquet.
The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. In connection with the purchase, bioMérieux has the right to designate one director for election to the Knome board. This seat will initially be held by Bancel.
Boasting more than a century of expertise in infectious disease management and "mastery of the three core technologies required for developing in vitro diagnostics"—reagents, instruments and software—bioMérieux's sees itself as very well-placed for development of next-generation diagnostics, and the company notes that it invests 12 percent to 13 percent of its sales into research and development, which company officials claim is the highest percentage of any other in vitro diagnostics company.