IBM, Mount Sinai to Evaluate Cancer Detection Capabilities of Novel Lab-on-a-Chip Tech

IBM has teamed with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to continue development of a new lab-on-a-chip technology designed by IBM scientists and to test it on prostate cancer. As reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, IBM’s lab-on-a-chip technology performs size-based separation of biological particles down to 20 nm in diameter, a scale that gives access to particles such as DNA, viruses, and exosomes. Once separated, these particles can be analyzed to potentially detect diseases before symptoms appear. Until now, according to IBM, the smallest bioparticle that could be separated by size with lab-on-a-chip technologies was about 50 times larger (e.g., circulating tumor cells).

Exosomes in particular are increasingly being viewed as useful biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of malignant tumors. The IBM team specifically targeted exosomes with its lab-on-a-chip technology with the goal of overcoming the challenges that existing scientific techniques face when separating and purifying exosomes in liquid biopsies. With Mount Sinai, IBM plans to confirm that its technology picks up exosomes with cancer-specific biomarkers from patient liquid biopsies. Mount Sinai also hopes that IBM’s technology will provide a new method for eavesdropping on the messages carried by exosomes for cell-to-cell communications. This could pave the way for new noninvasive and affordable point-of-care diagnostic tools. Monitoring this intercellular conversation more regularly could also enable medical experts to track an individual’s state of health or the progression of a disease.

Codigo46, BC Platforms Join Forces to Create Largest Biobank in Latin America

Mexico-based firm Codigo46 has partnered with BC Platforms with the aim of building and managing the most extensive biobank in Latin America. This biobank will be unique due to the Mexican genotype, which contains a mix of Native American and European genetics, and the companies expect the biobank to grow to hold more than 1 million genotypic and phenotypic data samples over the next 3 years. Working in cooperation with Mexican health and research specialists, Codigo46 hopes to use the biobank to conduct academic and commercial research in pursuit of personalized medicine, as well as for population risk assessment. Under the terms of the agreement, BC Platforms will deliver a customized technology platform that Codigo46’s global customers and collaborators can use to access and analyze the data in the biobank without compromising its integrity.

Google to Help Build Stanford Clinical Genomics Service

Stanford Medicine has enlisted Google to develop its forthcoming Clinical Genomics Service, which will make it easier for physicians at Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health to order genome sequencing for patients. The Clinical Genomics Service will be built using Google Genomics, a service that applies the same technologies that power Google Search and Maps to securely store, process, explore, and share genomic data sets. With Google Genomics, sequencing data obtained by Stanford’s Clinical Genomics Service will be stored on the Google Cloud Platform, where it will join aggregated and anonymous data from other Stanford patients. Stanford then will be able to use Google Cloud to analyze the data to decide which gene variants might be responsible for the patient’s health condition. A data curation team will also work with clinicians to narrow the possibilities. Ultimately, the Clinical Genomics Service aims to make genetic testing a normal part of patient care.

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, UM Launch Genomic Sequencing Initiative

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) and the University of Michigan have teamed to perform clinical-grade genomic sequencing on 500 relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma patients over a 2-year period. Known as the Molecular Profiling Initiative, this project aims to provide timely genomic sequencing information that multiple myeloma patients and their doctors could use to identify potential treatment options based on a patient’s genomic alterations. The Molecular Profiling Initiative is currently available free of charge at 11 hospitals and cancer institutes across the U.S., with more sites expected to open over the next few months. Bone marrow and peripheral blood samples are collected at these clinical sites and then shipped to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center for sequencing through its MI-Oncoseq program, which uses the Oncoseq1700 platform to evaluate alterations in 1,700 genes, many of which are related to cancer. The Molecular Profiling Initiative is part of the MMRF’s broader effort to accelerate research toward a multiple myeloma cure.

University of Utah, NantHealth to Investigate Genetic Causes of 25 Diseases

University of Utah and NantHealth have established the Heritage 1K Project, which will analyze the entire genomic profiles of at least 1,000 individuals who have a history of rare and life-threatening diseases and conditions in their respective families. University of Utah is home to the Utah Genome Project, a large-scale genome sequencing initiative aimed at discovering new disease-causing genes and developing genetic diagnostics and precision therapies. This project leverages the Utah Population Database, the world’s largest repository of genealogies and public health and medical records. Through the Heritage 1K Project, University of Utah and NantHealth will expand on and focus the Utah Genome Project’s discovery efforts by researching the genetic causes of 25 conditions, including breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancers, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, autism, preterm birth, and epilepsy. Under the terms of their agreement, NantHealth will contribute the use of its genome sequencing platform, which integrates whole genome (DNA) sequencing and RNA sequencing.

Natera, UCSF to Study Non-Invasive Biomarkers of Renal Transplant Rejection

Natera has joined forces with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to study the level of donor-derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA) in several hundred retrospectively banked plasma samples from kidney transplant recipients with and without organ injury. Current tests for renal transplant care rely on a combination of creatinine measures and needle biopsies, which often produce inconclusive results or a diagnosis of acute rejection only after the damage to the kidney is irreversible. Multiple studies have shown dd-cfDNA could serve as an alternative, and has the potential to be a universal marker for acute rejection of solid organs. Under this research agreement, Natera will use its proprietary massively-multiplexed PCR platform and statistical algorithms to analyze the dd-cfDNA level of plasma samples collected from kidney transplant patients at UCSF. Overall, the collaboration aims to investigate whether the routine measurement of dd-cfDNA helps predict organ injury and ultimately improve clinical outcomes.