To cancer and beyond
May 2013
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


SAN FRANCISCOóBay Area-based CollabRx Inc., a provider of cloud-based expert systems to inform healthcare decision-making, announced in early April that it has forged a partnership with Asian genetic diagnostics company Sengenics to provide turnkey diagnostic decision-making solutions.
This marked the second time in a week that CollabRx had inked an international deal, having earlier announced the beginning of a multi-year agreement under which Belgian company OncoDNA SA, a provider of DNA next-generation sequencing tests for clinical use in cancer, will employ CollabRx's software as a service (SaaS) offerings to use in conjunction with OncoDNA's cancer mutation panels.
Sengenics plans to incorporate CollabRx's interpretive content resources into its molecular cancer diagnostics tests and reports, thus offering cancer exome sequencing tests combined with interpretive analytics that will "create a comprehensive medical informatics solution." The solution is being designed with the goal of seamlessly pairing test results with clinically actionable and dynamically updated knowledge on the clinical impact of specific tumor genetic profiles and associated therapeutic strategies such as drugs and clinical trials. CollabRx will provide the content in a SaaS-based business model.
"Sengenics has become a widely recognized pioneer in this field, as it was the first company outside the U.S. to offer genomics-based research and diagnostic services," said Thomas Mika, chairman, president and CEO of CollabRx, in the news release about the deal. "CollabRx has established an industry standard for interpretive reporting in cancer diagnostics, which this agreement helps to expand globally. We also look forward to working with Sengenics to expand our interpretive content to genomic disease areas outside of cancer."
"As the cost of next-gen sequencing drops, market penetration in 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 think we're at the tipping point for that already, and I foresee some real acceleration in the next three or four years, especially in areas like cancer and inherited diseases."
Gordon adds that Sengenics has a pretty mature business, but it hasn't explored it much for cancer, and they were looking in part to see what CollabRx could provide to help get them into that area.  
"For us, Asia is very importantóthe rest of the world is, too, of course, but the research says the sequencing market will be growing fast in Asia and will soon eclipse the United States, particularly if you add the European market into the mix as well," Gordon says. "We want to shift our effort toward where the greatest part of the growth is expected to happen. This deal is very timely and carefully considered; there is nothing random about it."
In fact, this deal could be seen as part of a definitive trend.  
"If you look as some of our other recent announcements and deals in the cancer space," Gordon notes, "like our new molecular oncology board and a Life Technologies deal where we do much the same thing as we are doing with Sengenics, you can see that Sengenics is really representative of an overall strategy for our company."  
The partnership leverages CollabRx's semantic integration platform, which is a scalable, proprietary technology that enables CollabRx scientists and physicians to dynamically update the company's molecular oncology knowledge base with the latest medical and scientific data available in the public domain.  
"We are excited about partnering with CollabRx and developing such an important turnkey solution for clinical cancer sequencing," said Dr. Arif Anwar, executive director of Singapore-based Sengenics, in an official statement. "Our joint solution's ability to provide insights from CollabRx's clinical practitioner network represents critical and timely value to physicians when they are interpreting test results."
Sengenics has a portfolio of more than 400 genetic tests for developmental delay, rare genetic disorders, cardiac risk, thalassaemia and cancer. CollabRx says that the partnership, which leverages Sengenics' status as a prominent commercial entity in the genomics and diagnostics space, will now extend CollabRx's business to three continents: North America, Europe and Asia.
Although the companies have not worked together before this deal, Gordon notes that he has known Anwar since the time he worked for another Asian company called Synamatix.
"When I was working at Harvard Medical School, our larger collective group contracted with Synamatix to do bioinformatics and data processing, 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 he moved on but we kept in touch off and on. Things restarted with us in a professional capacity and his current company when they made a decision to put a bigger sales and marketing effort behind their sequencing service because they wanted to tap the clinical market. We got back in touch late last year because of that. The timing was right for us and both of our companies."
Code: E051316

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