Integrating the clinical lab workflow
June 2013
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


SAN FRANCISCO—Early May saw CollabRx Inc., a data analytics company focused on informing the clinical interpretation of molecular diagnostic testing, team up with Boston-based GeneInsight LLC, a developer of software to support knowledge management and reporting for genetic testing laboratories. The goal: deliver a robust medical informatics solution to better support the interpretation and reporting of genetic variants from sequencing-based tests.  
The deal calls for CollabRx's medical and scientific content to be made accessible through the GeneInsight knowledge management platform, and this effort is focused for now on oncology. The solution is aimed at users in clinical laboratories, to support their genetic sequencing, interpretation and reporting needs.
"We are excited to work with GeneInsight to provide a key medical informatics capability to the genetic testing laboratory market to accelerate adoption of next-generation sequencing-based tests for cancer and beyond," said Thomas R. Mika, CollabRx chairman, president and CEO, in the official release about the deal. "Our partnership with GeneInsight goes a long way towards enabling a truly integrated clinical laboratory workflow."
Although he had worked with people at GeneInsight in the past at other institutions, CollabRx's head of business development and alliances, Dr. Gavin J. Gordon, says the company really came onto the radar for CollabRx in a deal-making sense last September after the announcement of a deal between GeneInsight and Illumina.
"They were making some commercial noise in the marketplace, and that opened up some interesting opportunities for collaboration," Gordon tells DDNEWS. "In early February of this year, we reached out to them and started talking about we could do some partnership-type discussions."  
They ended up closing on the deal officially in April, he says.
"GeneInsight has developed some nice relationships with leading academic-based sequencing centers as well as cancer-treatment centers and hospitals, and they've announced deals with Cedars-Sinai, Illumina and others," Gordon continues. "The academic-based hospitals and sequencing centers are among the earliest adopters of next-generation sequencing technology, especially clinically oriented tech, so it makes sense for us to reach that market in as many different ways as we can. Hence, this deal. "  
GeneInsight has been in use since 2005 and has supported the interpretation and reporting workflow for more than 30,000 clinical genetic tests across multiple diagnostic reference laboratories, the two companies note, adding that organizing and clinically interpreting genetic sequence data is among the greatest challenges facing treating clinicians. It is potentially overwhelming to physicians, limiting their ability to use the data for actual effective patient care, particularly when it comes to cancer.
The combined offering in oncology will enable clinical laboratories to catalogue genetic variants from sequencing- based tests, and associate them with CollabRx's expertly curated knowledge on available drugs and clinical trials, the companies explain. Laboratories will have the option to incorporate this information into reports for treating physicians to enable increasingly informed treatment planning. Knowledge management, reporting and delivery of findings to ordering clinicians will be streamlined through Gene Insight's networked infrastructure, providing clinical laboratories the means to update physicians as knowledge evolves so they can effectively manage patient care.  
"The CollabRx and GeneInsight collaboration will enable laboratories using GeneInsight to leverage CollabRx content as they draft reports explaining the significance of variants identified in patients," said Dr. Heidi Rehm, chief laboratory director at Partners HealthCare's Laboratory for Molecular Medicine, in the news release about the deal. "When it comes to diagnosing and developing treatments, we work closely with scientists and clinicians at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital to advance patient care. We are thrilled to work with CollabRx and its more than 75 leading independent clinical practitioners to accelerate adoption of clinical sequencing in cancer."  
The collaboration is a perfect pairing, Gordon says, because while the GeneInsight software platform allows people to handle and share data, it isn't actually populated with data. That's the part that CollabRx brings, so that users can get a platform with data already in place—at least for cancer—instead of having to populate the platform with data themselves.
"From mission, tactics and strength standpoint, we're very much aligned with GeneInsight," Gordon states. "And from practical standpoint we provide a piece that they are lacking and they provide something we lack."
Code: E061315

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