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Ariosa Diagnostics, CHU de Quebec and Genome Canada to Launch Large-Scale Cost-Effectiveness Study of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing in Canada

A team of researchers led by CHU de Quebec and Universite Laval, have received CAN$10.5 million from Genome Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Genome Quebec and other partners to conduct a large-scale comparative effectiveness study on non-invasive prenatal screening techniques. Dr. Francois Rousseau and his team will examine current prenatal screening practices for chromosomal conditions, such as Down syndrome, among pregnant women in Canada in order to improve screening approaches and avoid unnecessary procedures.

Each year in Canada, about 450,000 women become pregnant and are offered Down syndrome prenatal screening using biochemical and ultrasound markers. The vast majority will be negative or low risk. However, for positive or high-risk results, those pregnant women are referred to amniocentesis, which is an invasive procedure done to confirm the screening result. Approximately 5% of all biochemical screening results are falsely positive, attributing to unnecessary invasive procedures that pose a 1 in 300 risk for miscarriage.

Genome Quebec is a strong supporter of public-private partnerships, such as the one developed between Ariosa Diagnostics and Dr. Francois Rousseau’s team. The PEGASUS: PErsonalized Genomics for prenatal Aneuploidy Screening USing maternal blood project, made possible through such partnerships in personalized medicine, will help meet women’s healthcare needs by giving them access to safer prenatal screening tests, explains Marc LePage, Genome Quebec’s President and CEO.

The research project aims at independently comparing the performances of different such approaches that involve various combinations of the available tools for screening of chromosomal conditions, as well as to evaluate the cost-effectiveness, the ethical and social aspects of this new technology and to identify and adapt the best implementation tools for users in the health care system. The researchers will recruit 5600 pregnant women (3600 at high-risk of trisomy conditions and 2000 at low-risk). Samples from these women will be tested in parallel using different screening approaches that involve genomic-based NIPT, but also existing or new biochemical and ultrasound screening tools. The samples will be analyzed without knowledge of the true status of the pregnancy outcome. This will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the most efficient ways to improve the prenatal screening techniques widely used today.

Ariosa Diagnostics is one of the major commercial partners for this project and will provide testing for part of this large sample that will include mainly low-risk women. The investigators have chosen the Harmony™ Prenatal Test as the commercially available NIPT assay to be included as one the various screening tests that will be compared.

Dr. Rousseau, Leader of the Project, mentions: “We are happy that Ariosa Diagnostics has joined this effort and provided a significant contribution to this Project. Ariosa’s Harmony test is the most affordable commercial NIPT available, and it was chosen by the research team for this study because it is the most likely to be used in the Canadian context.”

Dr. Thomas Musci, VP of Clinical and Medical Affairs at Ariosa remarked that: “Ariosa, as a core corporate value, is committed to furthering rigorous clinical and scientific study of cell-free DNA technology and the Harmony Prenatal Test in a variety of clinical settings and in a number of different countries. We are extremely pleased to support this collaboration with Genome Canada and fully support the goals of their research efforts.”

Dr. Serge Rivest, Director of the research Centre at the CHU de Qudbec, stated that: “The leadership of the researchers from CHU de Quebec Research Center was key in putting this exceptional academic team together to tackle one of the hottest clinical application of next-generation sequencing in the context of a population-based screening program.”

Source: Ariosa Diagnostics

Life Technologies Signs Five-Year Agreement with the FDA

Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: LIFE) recently announced that it has signed a five-year agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to accelerate and advance food safety testing of E. coli and Salmonella, two foodborne contaminants commonly associated with outbreaks and/or recalls.

The collaboration consists of three distinctive projects:

  • Life Technologies will design and validate new food safety tests for the detection and identification of foodborne pathogens, with pathogen strains provided by the FDA.
  • Life Technologies will design and validate a complete workflow for food pathogen detection on the Ion PGM™ platform, while optimizing sample preparation methods.
  • The FDA will have the opportunity to evaluate new disruptive technology platforms by Life Technologies for the use in pathogen detection.

Life Technologies will use its bioinformatics resources to independently develop real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) assays against unique E. coli and Salmonella targets in collaboration with the FDA. It will then provide the test results for these targets to the FDA for further validation.

The FDA will use Life Technologies’ Ion PGM™ Sequencer to generate whole genome sequence information from defined bacteria, and for strains that will be excluded from detection. Life Technologies’ bioinformatics team will then analyze the genomic information and provide assays or tests to the FDA for further validation and analysis. Whole genome sequences generated under the collaboration will be added to the National Institutes of Health Genbank so they can be accessed by the food safety research community.

“We are excited to be entering this cooperative research and development agreement with the FDA as we have been working alongside them in one capacity or the other for over 10 years,” said Nir Nimrodi, Vice President and General Manager for Food Safety and Animal Health at Life Technologies. “The FDA will call on us, particularly when it comes to developing rapid detection kits. This agreement allows them to have new rapid track and trace products for rapid identification of foodborne contaminants.”

Lastly, the FDA will validate and test Life Technologies’ next-generation sequencing technologies for Salmonella investigations as part of its effort to develop new rapid detection tools that can improve the public health response to future outbreaks.

Life Technologies has a strong history of combating pathogen outbreaks. In 2011, Life Technologies developed a custom assay to accurately detect the highly pathogenic E. coli 0104:H4 bacterium that spread through Europe, killing hundreds of people.

“The assay was developed using samples supplied by scientists at University Hospital Munster, who completed the DNA sequencing and analysis work on the deadly E. coli strain using the Ion PGM™ Sequencer,” said Maneesh Jain, Ion Torrent Vice President of Marketing for Life Technologies. “Now the FDA will validate and test this same technology to understand the molecular relationship within the Salmonella pathogen in the hopes to prevent future outbreaks from occurring.”

The PGM™ offers scientists the simplest and fastest workflow, lowest cost-per-sample, and highest sensitivity for multiple basic and clinical research applications.

Source: Life Technologies

Biomarker Predicts Heart Attack Risk Based on Response to Aspirin Therapy

Aspirin has been widely used for more than 50 years as a common, inexpensive blood thinner for patients with heart disease and stroke, but doctors have little understanding of how it works and why some people benefit and others don’t.

Now researchers at Duke Medicine have solved some of the mysteries related to the use of this century-old drug, and developed a blood-based test of gene activity that has been shown to accurately identify who will respond to the therapy.

The new gene expression profile not only measures the effectiveness of aspirin, but also serves as a strong predictor of patients who are at risk for heart attack, according to a study appearing July 3, 2013, in the online edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“We recognized the concept of aspirin resistance among a population of patients who have cardiac events or stroke,” said senior author Geoffrey S. Ginsburg, M.D., PhD, director of genomic medicine at Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and executive director of the Center for Personalized Medicine. “We give the same dose to all patients, but maybe some patients need a larger dose of aspirin, or maybe they need to try a different therapy entirely. We need better tools to monitor patients and adjust their care accordingly, and the findings from our study move us in that direction.”

The Duke researchers enlisted three groups of participants – two of healthy volunteers and one comprised of patients with heart disease seen in outpatient cardiology practices.

The healthy volunteers were given a dosage of 325 mg of aspirin daily for up to a month; the heart disease patients had been prescribed a low dose of aspirin as part of their treatment. Blood was then analyzed for the impact of aspirin on RNA expression and the function of platelets, which are the blood cells involved in clotting.

The RNA microarray profiling after aspirin administration revealed a set of 60 co-expressed genes that the researchers call the “aspirin response signature,” which consistently correlated with an insufficient platelet response to aspirin therapy among the healthy subjects as well as the heart disease patients.

The researchers also examined the aspirin response signature in another group of patients who had undergone cardiac catheterizations. They found the signature was also effective in identifying those patients who eventually suffered a heart attack or died.

“The aspirin response signature can determine who is at risk for heart attack and death,” said Deepak Voora, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Duke and lead author of the study. “There is something about the biology of platelets that determines how well we respond to aspirin and we can now capture that with a genomic signature in blood.”

Ginsburg said the research is progressing to recreate the findings in other populations, and to develop a standardized testing system that could one day move the analysis into daily practice.

“Nearly 60 million people take aspirin regularly to reduce their chances of heart attack and death, but it doesn’t work for everyone,” said Rochelle Long, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which partly supported the study. “By monitoring gene activity patterns these investigators uncovered a ‘signature’ linked to inadequate responsiveness. This work may eventually lead to a simple blood test to identify those who do not benefit from aspirin, enabling them to seek other therapeutic options.”

In addition to Ginsburg and Voora, study authors include Derek Cyr; Joseph Lucas; Jen-Tsan Chi; Jennifer Dungan; Timothy A. McCaffrey; Richard Katz; L. Kristin Newby; William E. Kraus; Richard C. Becker; and Thomas L. Ortel.

The study received funding from the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy; the National Institutes of Health (T32HL007101 to DV); the National Center for Research Resources (UL1RR024128); the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (RC1GM091083); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (5U01DD000014); and the David H. Murdock Research Institute.

Study: Aspirin Exposure Reveals Novel Genes Associated with Platelet Function and Cardiovascular Events

Source: Duke Medicine

Syapse Joins Free the Data! Initiative and Provides Software to Power Participant-centric Hereditary Gene Mutation Database

Syapse, the leader in software for bringing omics into routine medical use, announced that it has joined the Free the Data! initiative. This consortium of policy makers, advocacy organizations, individuals, academic centers, and industry aims to fill the public information gap caused by the lack of available genetic information for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and plans to expand to provide other types of genetic information in an open, searchable database.

Syapse will provide the software infrastructure for the Free the Data! initiative, enabling powerful data mining, visualization, and reporting. Participants will be able to visualize their own variations and clinical data in comparison to those already in the database, while clinicians will be able to utilize variant interpretation in medical interactions. Researchers, industry, and others can utilize Syapse data mining tools to interrogate the variants, interpretation, and evidence, along with clinical data submitted by participants. Participants will have full control over data sharing and privacy preferences of the data they contribute. The campaign shares all variants with ClinVar, the National Institutes of Health public database, unless the participant dictates otherwise.

“Despite national attention on the patentability of human genes, a ruling against gene patentability doesn’t immediately provide broad access to BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants or place them in a public database that will allow for better diagnosis and care,” said Sharon F. Terry, M.A., president and CEO of Genetic Alliance. “Syapse provides the best platform for integrating complex genomics and clinical data from disparate sources, and reporting it in a dynamic and relevant interface to participants and clinicians. We are excited to be using Syapse software to enable all individuals to access genetic mutations and their clinical interpretations in order to improve care.”

“Syapse is pleased to join Genetic Alliance, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), InVitae Corporation, and advocates in the Free the Data! initiative to crowdsource the interpretation of BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants,” said Jonathan Hirsch, Founder & President of Syapse. “Syapse is committed to the free and open interpretation of the genome, but interpreting the genome requires a larger evidence base than any one entity can develop. Pooling genetic and clinical data will rapidly advance medical knowledge of clinically relevant genetic mutations, leading to more effective diagnosis, treatment, and cures.”

Individuals who have received genetic testing and who are interested in participating are invited to go to the Free The Data! project web site at www.free-the-data.org, and follow the instructions to upload test results, set privacy and sharing settings, and answer a brief questionnaire.

Individuals may also send a scan or PDF of the test report form with the personal identifying information blocked to Genetic Alliance by email at freethedata@geneticalliance.org or by facsimile at 202.966.8553.

We encourage individuals, advocacy groups, research organizations, physicians, policy groups, professional societies and industry to join the cause. For more information, please visit free-the-data.org or contact: 202.966.5557 x201.

Source: Synapse

Big Data From Alzheimer’s Disease Whole Genome Sequencing Will Be Available to Researchers Due to Novel Global Research Database

The Alzheimer’s Association and the Brin Wojcicki Foundation announced recently that massive amounts of new data have been generated by the first “Big Data” project for Alzheimer’s disease. The data will be made freely available to researchers worldwide to quickly advance Alzheimer’s science.

Discussed recently at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2013 in Boston, the project obtained whole genome sequences on the largest cohort of individuals related to a single disease – more than 800 people enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI).

The genome sequencing data – estimated to be 200 terabytes – will be housed in and available through the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN), a planned massive network of Alzheimer’s disease research data made available by the world’s foremost Alzheimer’s researchers from their own laboratories, and which also is being publicly announced today at AAIC 2013. GAAIN is funded by an initial $5 million dollar investment by the Alzheimer’s Association, made possible due to the generous support of donors.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is committed to creating open access to research data, and we believe GAAIN will transform how neuroscience data is shared and accessed by scientists throughout the world,” said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations. “By fostering a higher level of global data sharing, GAAIN will accelerate investigation and discovery in Alzheimer’s through a system comparable to a search engine like Google or Bing for relevant data.”

“With the addition of more than 800 whole genomes on ADNI subjects that can be linked to the current rich dataset, ADNI data will be even more useful to scientists who are seeking new approaches to treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Robert C. Green, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who led the ADNI sequencing project. “ADNI is a leader in open data sharing, having provided clinical, imaging and biomarker data to over 4,000 qualified scientists around the world, which has generated over 700 scientific manuscripts.

First, Massive Whole Genome Sequencing Project in Alzheimer’s Disease

Whole genome sequencing determines all six billion letters in an individual’s DNA in one comprehensive analysis. The raw data from the ADNI project is being made available to qualified scientists around the globe to mine for novel targets for risk assessment, new therapies, and much-needed insight into the causes of the fatal brain disease. The new data may enable scientists to better understand how our genes cause and are affected by bodily changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

ADNI enrolls people with Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and normal cognition who have agreed to be studied in great detail over time. The goal is to identify and understand markers of the disease in body fluids, structural changes in the brain, and measures of memory; the hope is to improve early diagnosis and accelerate the discovery of new treatments. ADNI is led by Principal Investigator Michael W. Weiner, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center. Dr. Green collaborated on managing the sequencing efforts with Arthur Toga, Ph.D., of UCLA and Andrew J. Saykin, Psy.D., of Indiana University. The actual genome sequencing was performed at Illumina, Inc.

ADNI is a public-private research project led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with private sector support through the Foundation for NIH. Launched in 2004, ADNI’s public-private funding consortium includes pharmaceutical companies, science-related businesses, and nonprofit organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association and the Northern California Institute for Research and Education.

The Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN)

Data-sharing has already greatly benefitted scientific disciplines such as genetics, molecular biology, and the physical sciences. Data-sharing in genetics has led to dramatic advances in understanding the risk factors underlying complex diseases. The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) is a compelling example of dozens of geographically-dispersed researchers working together to share their data while making it freely available to others for analysis and publication.

“GAAIN is similar in spirit and goals to other ‘big data’ initiatives that seek to greatly improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and make discoveries from huge volumes of digital data,” Carrillo said. “The advent of cloud computing makes it possible to link databases throughout the world and expand their data processing capability significantly to benefit the research community.”

Carrillo will supervise the development of GAAIN in conjunction with co-principal investigators Art Toga, Ph.D., of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI) at the University of Southern California and Giovanni Frisoni, M.D., of the National Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care and the Instituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS), Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Italy. Enrique Castro-Leon, Ph.D., who will serve as a consultant, is an enterprise and data center architect for strategic partner Intel Digital Enterprise Group.

GAAIN is built on an international database framework already in use by thousands of scientists and local computational facilities in North America and Europe. The network makes research data available free-of-charge for searching, downloading, and processing across a cloud-based, grid-network infrastructure accessible anywhere through Internet access.

The key to GAAIN’s innovation is its federation of data, which is unprecedented for such a system. GAAIN leadership will invite scientists conducting qualified studies to become partners by permitting GAAIN to link directly to their databases. This will enable researchers to add continually to their data sets and keep all data in GAAIN current and dynamic. It also will enable the scientists to retain control over access to their data, which the Association believes will be important to encouraging participation.

“This is unprecedented and of the utmost importance in brain research, where sometimes thousands of examples are required to observe even the smallest change in the brain,” said Giovanni Frisoni, M.D., neurologist and deputy scientific director at the National Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care at the IRCCS. He will lead the work of GAAIN in Europe.

“Through GAAIN we envision combining massive amounts of data from multiple sources across many subjects participating in numerous studies,” said Art Toga, Ph.D., professor of neurology at UCLA and director of LONI. “This will provide more statistical power than ever before.”

Source: Alzheimer’s Association