Introducing OncoSpire Genomics
July 2013
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


ROCHESTER, Minn.—Renowned nonprofit Mayo Clinic and cancer diagnostics and services company Cancer Genetics Inc. (CGI) have announced the launch of a joint venture, OncoSpire Genomics. The new company will focus on discovering and commercializing biomarkers and diagnostic tests that leverage next-generation sequencing for multiple cancer types.
OncoSpire Genomics is a limited liability company with an office in Rochester, Minn. The Mayo Clinic and Cancer Genetics have equal ownership in the company, with three members from each organization comprising OncoSpire's six-member scientific review committee. Intellectual property will be shared equally and owned by OncoSpire. Cancer Genetics will provide commercial expertise, and will contribute $2 million in operating capital with the option to provide up to $6 million over the next three years.  
The Mayo Clinic will match Cancer Genetics' investment with in-kind contributions including lab resources, clinical expertise, next-generation sequencing infrastructure, scientific expertise and other operational resources. Projects will be mutually agreed upon by the scientific review committee.
"Our goal is the rapid discovery and commercialization of biomarkers for cancer," says Sam Smith, public affairs specialist at the Mayo Clinic.  
OncoSpire's initial areas of focus will be hematological and urogenital cancers.
"Cancer Genetics' current business lines focus on these areas," says Smith. "We mutually believe there are large and currently unmet needs in these two areas that would benefit from joining forces to advance molecular discovery and clinical services."
Although hematological and urogenital cancers represent OncoSpire's starting point, the collaborators already plan to expand biomarker development activities beyond these two areas.  
The research will be conducted at Mayo Clinic labs that specialize in life science and genetics, including its Center for Individualized Medicine Biomarker Discovery Program. OncoSpire also will make use of Mayo's medical genome facility to explore personalized medicine applications based upon exploration of how individual differences in human genomes affect health outcomes. Thanks to advances in technology, the researchers are now able to sequence an entire human genome for a few thousand dollars in a matter of days.  
"The combination of resources we are bringing together positions OncoSpire Genomics to create a major impact in the development of advanced genomic-based cancer diagnostics," Cancer Genetics CEO Panna Sharma said in a press statement announcing OncoSpire's launch. "Our investment in OncoSpire Genomics represents the potential for a paradigm shift in patient management that can result in more efficient use of healthcare resources, ultimately improving the cost structure of cancer diagnosis and treatment."
The partnership was forged after Scott Beck, administrator at the Center for Individualized Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, began actively pursuing partnerships in this space.  
"Part of it was happenstance—people on the boards of the two organizations started to talk informally," says Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine. "Then we began due diligence. We knew that we wanted to get biomarkers, and we discovered that Cancer Genetics had this capability and knew how to set up a pipeline."
"This venture is a long-term partnership that plays to the strengths of both companies," say Smith. "It pairs Cancer Genetics' experience in discovery and commercialization with Mayo Clinic's biomarker discovery expertise and history of tackling clinical problems by going into the lab and developing tools and diagnostics."   
OncoSpire's scientific review committee consists of Mayo Clinic appointees Farrugia, Beck and Kathy Bates as well as Cancer Genetics appointees Drs. Raju Chaganti, Sharma and John Pappajohn.
The Mayo Clinic is a worldwide leading nonprofit in medical care, research and education. The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, funded by the National Cancer Institute, promotes basic and clinical research into cancer and translates discovering into methods for prevention, detection, diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. The Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine discovers and integrates genomic, molecular and clinical sciences into personalized care for Mayo Clinic patients.
Cancer Genetics Inc. has emerged as a provider of DNA-based cancer diagnostics and services to several prestigious global medical institutions including Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the Cleveland Clinic and the National Cancer Institute. Its diagnostics target forms of cancer that are difficult to diagnose or for which it is difficult to predict outcomes of treatment, including hematological, urogenital and HPV-associated cancers.
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