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In Brief This Week: Color, Bruker, Thermo Fisher, and More

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Color this week announced that it will offer $50 confirmatory testing for individuals who have positive results from 23andMe's direct-to-consumer genetic test that gauges three BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

The BRCA1 185delAG, BRCA1 5382insC, and BRCA2 6174delT mutations tested for by 23andMe's assay occur in around 2 percent of Ashkenazi Jewish women and significantly increase their risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The FDA recently authorized 23andMe's test for direct-to-consumer sales with a number of caveats about its limitations, and informed people not to make decisions about treatment or prophylactic surgeries based on the DTC test. As GenomeWeb recently reported, this has industry stakeholders wondering whether insurers would cover confirmatory assessment in this context based on FDA's determination, since typically, insurers only cover testing when patients have a very strong family and personal history of cancer.

"We believe the right thing to do is offer people with suspected mutations from a DTC test access to an affordable physician-ordered clinical test from a CLIA-certified, CAP-accredited lab," Color Cofounder Othman Laraki said in a blog post. For those qualifying for confirmatory testing, Color will perform its 30-gene hereditary cancer panel (including BRCA1/2) and provide genetic counseling for $50. The panel, which is ordered by a third-party network doctor or the patient's own doctor, usually costs $249.

Bruker announced this week that it has acquired German company Sierra Sensors, a developer and manufacturer of analytical biosensors based on Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) detection. Financial details were not disclosed. Sierra's flagship instrument features the company's SPR [+] detection technology, powering an array of 32 sensors across eright channels. Sierra's Hydrodynamic Isolation technology enables what the company calls Any Sample, Any Sensor, Any Time microfluidic sensor addressing, and its eight-channel systems can measure the specificity, affinity, kinetic rates and thermodynamics of molecular interactions. Its SPR solutions complement Bruker's portfolio of mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, and X-ray crystallography systems in drug discovery, Bruker noted.

Thermo Fisher Scientific announced this week that it has opened a US Precision Medicine Science Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The center offers collaborators access to omics technologies — such as genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic analysis tools — and expertise to develop analytical workflows for generating molecular profiles of patient samples. Specifically, the center has a team of experts in biochemistry, mass spectrometry, molecular biology, and data science available to help partners develop standard protocols in order to shorten R&D times and move from biomarkers to assay development quickly. Thermo Fisher opened a similar center in Guangzhou, China last year.

Centogene said this week it is opening its first US-based rare disease laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 1. The lab will be a point of contact for the company's collaboration partners, leveraging its diagnostic services in the US. The new space will have a state-of-the-art high-throughput genetic testing lab with biochemical, proteomic, metabolomic, and genetic analysis capabilities. Earlier in the year, the company — which is based in Germany — said that it would be looking to expand into the US, and in December it opened an office in Boston.

OncoDNA said this week that it has signed a collaboration agreement with MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, under which oncologists who work at the center will now be able to use OncoDNA's portfolio of genomic analysis tools for their patients. OncoDNA will also work with the center to carry out genomic studies and conduct research aimed at building more effective and less invasive methods in the fight against cancer. The announcement follows a series of other agreements with Spanish hospitals and clinics in recent months, the company said. Financial details were not disclosed.

Abbott's board this week declared a quarterly dividend of $.28 per share, payable on Aug. 15 to shareholders of record at the close of business on July 13.

London-based preventive health company OME Health said this week that it has raised nearly $1.3 million in seed funding. The financing round was led by Inventure, a Nordic technology fund, with participation from Doehler Group, Practica Capital, and several angel investors in the UK. OME Health plans to use the new funding to expand its commercial activities in the UK and in continental Europe. The firm, which was founded in 2016, offers a personalized 12-week health plan that is based on an individual's gut microbiome, genetics, blood markers, and other health data. It has clients in the nutrition and health insurance industries and collaborates with global food manufacturers to develop personalized nutrition offerings.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said this week that has opened the National Knowledge Center for the Study of Rare/Orphan Genetic Diseases in collaboration with Soroka University Medical Center. The center, which is supported by the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology, aims to advance research in rare genetic diseases by providing resources and knowledge, focusing on Jewish and Arab communities throughout Israel. It will be led by Ohad Birk, director of the Genetics Institute at Soraka and the Morris Kahn Lab at the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev at BGU.

Irish life sciences company Genomics Medicine Ireland announced this week that it has launched a genomic study into the chronic rheumatic conditions ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nrAxSpA). Genomics Medicine Ireland has partnered with University Hospital Limerick as its first research study site examining the conditions. The study aims to identify and examine the underlying genetic factors that are common among people with AS or nrAxSpA, with the objective of identifying commonalities and linkages that can help diagnose the diseases early on, predict their severity, and suggest personalized treatments.

Macrogen said this week that it has established Macrogen Asia Pacific, a subsidiary in Singapore, and is working on final arrangements to start the installation of a genome center. Macrogen Asia Pacific is the company's second global operation in Asia following the establishment of a subsidiary in Japan. The company plans to use the genome center to participate in large-scale genome analysis projects with major institutions such as A*STAR and SingHealth, Singapore's largest hospital network group.

Premaitha Health announces this week that it has signed a three-year agreement with an unnamed clinical laboratory group in India to provide a bespoke scalable NIPT solution in the Indian market. Premaitha, through its Yourgene subsidiary, will offer mass-population NIPT screening to patients in more than 2,000 cities and towns in India. The bespoke NIPT screening system utilizes a DNA preparation technology from Premaitha's development center in the UK. Premaitha will supply sample and library preparation consumables to its partner's central laboratory in India, and will perform the NIPT analysis on the resulting sequenced DNA data in Yourgene's bioinformatics center in Taiwan.

In Brief This Week is a selection of news items that may be of interest to our readers but had not previously appeared on GenomeWeb.