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In Brief This Week: Illumina, Thermo Fisher Scientific, BGI, and More

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Illumina this week announced it has partnered with the Chinese Medical Genetics Association (CMGA) of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association (CMDA) to launch whole-genome sequencing for Chinese children with birth defects and rare undiagnosed diseases. Professor Lingqian Wu, of the XiangYa School of Medicine at China's Central South University and president of the Chinese Association of Medical Geneticists, said in a statement that more than 10 of the association's member hospitals and children’s institutes have conveyed interest in joining the program. The association will draft guidelines on the clinical application of whole-genome sequencing in pediatrics.

Thermo Fisher Scientific said this week that Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin of Germany has joined its Next-Generation Sequencing Companion Dx Center of Excellence Program, which aims to establish research collaborations and drive the adoption of Thermo Fisher's Oncomine assays for clinical applications. Under the terms of the agreement, Michael Hummel, professor at the Institute of Pathology at Charité, will lead research studies using Oncomine immune-oncology and liquid biopsy assays as well as Thermo Fisher’s sequencing platforms. Charité's molecular diagnostics unit already offers Thermo Fisher's amplicon-based NGS tests for patient care and Charité has partnered with the company on product development projects in the past.

BGI this week launched a research partnership program that offers collaborators free whole-genome sequencing in exchange for co-authorship on scientific publications and shared intellectual property. Under the terms of the Genome Decode Program, which is open to customers worldwide and aims to accelerate disease research, BGI will provide free human WGS for up to half of all samples of a project. In return, BGI asks to contribute to the design and coordination of the study, provide co-authors on scientific publications, and share in IP resulting from the study. In total, BGI has committed to sequencing 10,000 human genomes under the program, which encourages proposals in the areas of pediatric cancer, congenital heart disease, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and metabolic diseases.

Invitae said this week that in connection with a recent arrangement with Oxford Finance to extend its loan and security agreement by an additional $20 million, the company granted the lender warrants to purchase 55,563 shares and 29,919 shares of Invitae's common stock at an exercise price of $7.02 per share. The warrants have a term of 10 years from the date they were issued and include a cashless exercise provision.

The International Panel Physicians Association (IPPA) this week endorsed Qiagen's QuantiFeron-TB Gold Plus test for immigration medical screening for latent tuberculosis. The IPPA is a not-for-profit physician education group that works with nations receiving immigrants and refugees. Panel physicians are appointed by receiving country governments to handle the mandatory pre-departure medical exams of migrants, and will be required to use interferon gamma release assays (IGRA), such as the QuantiFeron-TB Gold Plus, for TB screening, Qiagen said. Oxford Immunotec also offers an IGRA test, the T-Spot.TB test, though it is unclear if that test received IPPA endorsement.

The IPPA endorsement follows a decision last month by the World Health Organization deeming IGRAs an appropriate alternative to tuberculin skin testing for determining which patients in regions with a high disease burden could progress to active TB. The CDC also mandated last month that all US civil surgeons screening immigrants for latent TB use IGRAs instead of tuberculin skin tests.

NIghtingale Health said this week that it will analyze 40,000 blood samples from Finland's THL Biobank as part of the company's goal of bringing personalized medicine to Finnish healthcare. In a statement, Nightingale Founder and Scientific Director Peter Würtz said that analyzing the samples with its biomarker testing technology "allows us to capture detailed biological differences between patient groups," which will translate into improved prediction of heart disease and other chronic ailments. The company's technology is based on nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. It moved into the clinical space last year. Earlier this month, Nightingale announced a precision medicine collaboration with PerkinElmer.

Sygnis said this week it has restructured its sales and marketing operations to drive continued strong revenue growth. A direct sales and distribution team has been created to focus on product sales, while a business development team will concentrate on partnering and service opportunities. Marketing will support both teams and be responsible for maintaining the newly launched Expedeon-branded product website. Sygnis also said that in 2017, revenues are anticipated to grow to €7.8 million ($9.6 million) from €1.8 million in 2016. Organically, revenues are expected to grow 24 percent year over year, while the number of employees has also risen to more than 30.

VolitionRx this week closed its public offering of 3.5 million shares of its common stock at $2.40 per share. Gross proceeds from the offering were $8.4 million. The company intends to use the proceeds for continued product development, clinical studies, product commercialization, working capital, and other general corporate purposes.

Fluidigm said this week that it has entered into separate privately negotiated transactions to exchange approximately $25 million in aggregate principal amount of its 2.75 percent convertible senior notes due 2034 for approximately $25 million in aggregate principal amount of additional 2.75 percent exchange convertible senior notes due 2034. The additional exchange notes, together with $125 million of exchange notes previously sold on March 6, 2018, will form a single class of $150 million principal amount of the exchange notes. Following the closing of the exchange, Fluidigm anticipates that $51.3 million in aggregate principal amount of existing notes will remain outstanding.

Inivata announced this week that MedStar and the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute will join the Inivata Knowledge Accumulation Network (IKAN). IKAN is a global network of cancer centers working with Inivata to assess the potential of liquid biopsy and circulating tumor DNA analysis. MedStar will join Atrium Health's Levine Cancer Institute and West Cancer Center as the pioneering members of IKAN, Inivata said.

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