By Turna Ray
Life Technologies is tapping the expertise of several personalized medicine companies — some through partnerships and others through acquisitions — to develop a decision-support tool and knowledge portal that doctors can use to deliver individualized treatment strategies for cance r patients.
The development of the portal is in line with Life Tech’s expanding molecular diagnostic strategy. After doctors test patients on one of the company’s tests, they will gain access to a so-called Interpretation Portal, through which they can learn of different treatment strategies, clinical trial options, and what the published literature has to say about their patients’ molecular profiles. The Interpretation Portal will also link new patient data to translational research databases that can be used by industry to develop new treatments and tests.
This portal — targeted for launch in 2013 — will take advantage of the expertise, data, and tools at three different firms: Compendia, Ingenuity Systems, and CollabRx. Earlier this week, Life Tech acquired the cancer bioinformatics firm Compendia. The firm houses a library of mutation profiles, gene expression data, and cellular biomarkers from more than 62,000 cancer patients. Compendia also operates a cloud-based analytics tool called Oncomine, which helps researchers discover associations between genetic signatures, clinical status, and drug response.
The Compendia acquisition followed Life Tech’s announcements last week that it was collaborating with CollabRx and Ingenuity. Ingenuity markets software that allows researchers to gain insights from biomedical research. CollabRx, meanwhile, markets a free online application, called Therapy Finder, which provides physicians and patients with a range of options for clinical trials and targeted therapies that match patients’ molecular profiles.
“The Interpretation Portal will have different resources that the physician can engage to cover the full spectrum of information in terms of understanding and contextualizing the results of [Life Tech’s] test panels, as well as using it in a specific, actionable way to plan a treatment,” Gavin Gordon, head of business development and alliances at CollabRx, toldPGx Reporter. “In terms of taking the results of a genetic panel and linking that to the published scientific literature, Ingenuity is going to fill that need. In terms of taking the results of a genetic panel and linking it to translational databases, like Oncomine, Compendia is going to fill that need. In terms of taking genetic data and linking it to clinical trials, as well as therapy considerations, CollabRx is going to be fulfilling that.”
The services that CollabRx will provide under the Life Tech collaboration will be similar in concept to the company’s Therapy Finder applications for melanoma, breast, lung, and colorectal cancers. However, the service that CollabRx will offer as part of the Life Tech collaboration will be used solely by doctors, while the Therapy Finder application is a free online application geared toward doctors and patients who want to educate themselves about molecular markers associated with cancer and drug response. Moreover, CollabRx will provide treatment and clinical trial recommendations for all cancer-related mutations assessed by Life Tech’s panels, not just for the few cancer types featured in Therapy Finder.
“What we don’t do is say, ‘If you have a specific signature, this is what you should do.’ We don’t provide single options, such as, ‘This is the drug you should take or this is the trial you should enter,” Gordon said. “What we do is take the world’s knowledge in molecular medicine at that given point in time and we reduce down the publicly available data to the drugs, approved and investigational in clinical trials, that are tightly associated with genetic signatures … based on the published literature and vetted by leading experts.”
According to Gordon, the freely available version of Therapy Finder and the application integrated into Life Tech’s Interpretation Portal are very much related but will target different users and address different needs. “The user interface, the interaction models are different enough in that they will be different products,” he said. “Most importantly, the Life Tech application provides information at the point of care and in the context of interpreting a cancer panel associated with a specific patient’s tumor.”
The Compendia acquisition and partnerships with Ingenuity and CollabRx come as Life Tech has been aggressively building up its molecular diagnostics capabilities. In July, Life Tech gained access to its own CLIA-certified lab through its purchase of the genetic testing firm Navigenics. The company plans to use this CLIA lab to validate its tests, launch lab-developed tests and FDA-approved kits, and offer genetic testing services to pharmaceutical partners. Additionally, at the time of the acquisition, Life Tech said it intended to expand Navigenics’ physician portal and use it as a tool that doctors can use to interpret the results of its genomic tests (PGx Reporter 7/18/2012).
It’s likely that the capabilities of Compendia, Ingenuity, and CollabRx will be integrated into the Navigenics’ portal. Life Tech and Ingenuity did not respond to interview requests for this article.
At the Consumer Genetics Conference in Boston last week, Life Tech CEO Greg Lucier discussed the company’s plans in the molecular diagnostics space, and the assets the Navigenics acquisition provides in this regard. “What we saw in [Navigenics] was a little different than doing a quick test to see if you have restless leg syndrome,” Lucier said. “It was that they had spent a lot of money, I think in an effective way, in developing software systems for the conveyance of information to their consumer base.
“We are repurposing that software to be the engine for physician-patient interaction,” he added. “We want to have end-to-end capability in this emerging field of delivering important genetic information to help patients.”
Shortly after purchasing Navigenics, Life Tech bought Pinpoint Genomics in order to get its hands on a prognostic test that can identify which early-stage non-small cell lung cancer patients are at high risk for experiencing disease progression during the five-year window after surgical resection of their tumors. Life Tech recently launched this 14-gene expression panel, called the Prevenio Lung RS, as a laboratory-developed test in the US through its CLIA lab, and plans to pursue in vitro diagnostic certification for the test outside the US (PGx Reporter 7/25/2012; 9/26/2012).
Life Technologies has also said it plans to work with pharma to advance companion tests. The firm publicized an Rx/Dx collaboration in September with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Life and BMS will initially work together on an oncology project. This partnership could eventually expand into other disease areas.
At the Consumer Genetics Conference, Lucier said that with the Prevenio Lung RS as its initial commercial molecular test, Life Tech is planning to launch a series of other tests over the next 12 months, including diagnostics to facilitate personalized therapy selection. He added that Life Tech is aiming to launch resources related to the Interpretation Portal in 2013.
— Molika Ashford contributed reporting for this article from the Consumer Genetics Conference.