- Nonprofit Sutter Health is partnering with the University of Pittsburg Medical Center and bioinformatics and data management platform DNAnexus to study how genomic data can impact the treatment and outcomes of people living with multiple sclerosis, or MS.
- Under the arrangement, Sutter Health's Center for Precision Medicine will input de-identified clinico-genomic datasets from over 3,000 patients in DNAnexus' secure Apollo platform and UPMC's Genome Center will produce clinical-grade genomic data from participants' samples.
- Starting next month, Sutter will enroll more than 500 MS patients in the first phase of a study to assess aspects of their clinical and genomic makeup that correlate with aspects of MS and how it progresses.
A debilitating autoimmune disorder, MS affects over 2.3 million people globally, including some 450,000 in the U.S. where doctors diagnose about 10,000 new cases a year. Currently, there is no cure for MS and its exact cause is unknown.
In the upcoming study, patients' EHR data, patient-reported outcomes, imaging results and blood samples, as well as whole exome sequencing done by UPMC, will be processed and linked on the DNAnexus platform. Sutter clinicians, researchers and collaborators will use the platform to look for links to MS subtypes, disease progression, staging, symptoms, MRI changes and patients' response to disease-modifying therapies.
"Collaborating with DNAnexus allows access to cutting-edge bioinformatics tools to better understand our clinically meaningful 'big data,'" Gregory Tranah, director of the Sutter Health Center for Precision Medicine, said in a statement. "This is an important step to advance precision medicine efforts across Sutter and, ultimately, to improve treatments for people with MS in our community and the millions of people affected with the disease worldwide."
The collaboration comes as more health systems are integrating sequencing into their patient care. In January, NorthShore University Health System and Color, a population genomics technology firm, teamed up to offer genomics in primary care. The program, called DNA10K, aims to help patients understand their genetic makeup and risk factors for major diseases and provide insights on personalized approaches to care.
Last year, Geisinger announced it would offer patients whole exome sequencing free of charge in an effort to leverage DNA sequencing in primary care. Cleveland Clinic uses pharmacogenomic testing to improve prescribing of opiate-based pain medications, while Boston Children's Hospital is working with GeneDX and WuXi NextCODE to learn what DNA sequencing can explain about epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease.
UPMC (and a number of other major medical centers) are using their venture capital arms to fund innovative projects with the hope they will lead to new products and services that can improve care or operations for their own populations, and eventually be spun off or commercialized on a wider scale. For example, UPMC Enterprises reaped $243 million when Evolent Health, its population health management spinoff, went public in 2015. And Mayo Clinic has racked up $600 million in revenue since 1986 from licensing its intellectual property.
Mountain View, California-based DNAnexus offers a cloud-based platform for genomic informatics and data management, currently available in 33 countries worldwide. Since its founding in 2009, the company has raised $172.6 million in six funding rounds — the latest a Series F round led by Google Ventures in February that brought in $68 million.