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In Brief This Week: Invenio Genetics, Swift Biosciences, Caris Life Sciences, and More

NEW YORK – Invenio Genetics, a California-based genomic test developer, said this week that it is collaborating with Singapore's Imagene Labs to develop an improved consumer genomics product. Specifically, Imagene's ancestry-based polygenic risk scoring bioinformatics system will power Invenio's GeneFolio Fitness & Nutrition DNA analysis product, increasing accuracy for currently underrepresented health populations. The partners said that a significant gap in preventive health and wellness DNA analysis is that they source predominantly European/non-Hispanic White genetic databases. Imagene's genetic risk scoring bioinformatics system uses machine-learning tools and genetic datasets from all five of the world's primary ethnic groups (East Asian, South Asian, Latin American, European, and African), and will be integrated into Invenio's GeneFolio test, which analyzes more than 1,000 genetic variations related to 20 fitness traits and 30 nutrition and diet factors.

Swift Biosciences said this week that it is collaborating with SPT Labtech to modify Swift's next-generation sequencing library preparation kits on SPT's liquid-handling platforms. Specifically, the companies will work together to miniaturize Swift's library prep kits — including products for degraded DNA and low-input DNA, and custom amplicon panels — on SPT's Mosquito Genomics and Dragonfly Discovery platforms. The companies will also aim to partner with research organizations to scale their research initiatives using miniaturization, Cris Kinross, director of market development at Swift Biosciences, said in an email.

Caris Life Sciences said this week that the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego has joined the Caris Precision Oncology Alliance. The alliance currently includes 49 cancer centers and academic institutions that have access to genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic testing via the Caris Molecular Intelligence platform, to biomarker-informed drug trials sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, and to Caris' database of clinical and treatment information on more than 244,000 cancer patients. Caris' platform also joins physician scientists at member institutions who want to collaborate on precision oncology research.

Yourgene Health said this week that its wholly-owned US subsidiary of the same name has signed a $1.5 million supply agreement for the company's Ranger DNA enrichment technology with a large, unnamed US clinical laboratory group. Yourgene obtained the Ranger technology as part of its acquisition of Coastal Genomics last August.

Under the terms of the five-year agreement, the lab group has non-exclusive rights to integrate the Ranger technology into its reproductive health diagnostic screening pathway to support its US-wide clinical laboratory network. The initial agreement is for use of the technology in reproductive health but it could expand into other applications such as oncology in the future. As a result of the deal, former Coastal Genomics shareholders will receive a milestone payment of approximately 5 million Yourgene shares within 28 days.

Bionano Genomics said this week that Praxis Genomics has received DEX Z-codes from Palmetto MolDx for its menu of laboratory-developed tests that run on Bionano's Saphyr optical genome mapping platform. Praxis is the first clinical laboratory in the US to commercially offer diagnostic tests on the Saphyr platform. Bionano explained that a DEX Z-code modifier, which is associated with a certain molecular diagnostic test, is typically used by payors as an adjunct to non-specific CPT codes when no specific CPT code applies. Obtaining DEX Z-codes for the Saphyr tests "is potentially a major step forward in the coding and eventual coverage of Saphyr-based tests," Bionano said, adding that the codes also "allow for a path for Medicare coverage and private insurance reimbursement for [optical genome mapping] with Saphyr of patients with suspected genetic disease."

The Association of Public Health Laboratories announced this week that it has partnered with Abbott Laboratories to transfer results from Abbott's BinaxNow COVID-19 rapid antigen test to US public health agencies. Organizations using Abbott's test and its digital Navica system can send the encrypted test results to state public health agencies using APHL's AIMS+ electronic laboratory reporting solution.

The partnership comes as many organizations who are using Abbott's test, such as schools and universities, do not have established infrastructures of their own to report results. Those organizations will need to access the Navica system's reporting solution, which will allow them to manage testing programs and see results for their populations.

Molecular diagnostics company LexaGene said this week that it has received C$3.6 million ($2.8 million) in warrant exercises since the start of 2021. The company noted that achieving its first commercial sales combined with a positive outlook for its business in 2021 has resulted in the appreciation of its share price in recent months, and that the receipt of exercised warrants has put the firm in a strong financial position for the rest of the year.

LexaGene also said it is anticipating a strong demand for its automated, multiplexing, PCR-based pathogen detection system MiQLab in 2021. In anticipation of this demand, the company is hiring additional sales reps for the veterinary and open-access markets, with a focus on the West Coast, Northeast, and Midwest regions of the US.

Toronto-based diagnostics firm SQI Diagnostics said this week that sales for its fiscal first quarter were flat year over year at C$200,000 (US$158,000). The firm had a net loss of C$3.7 million, or C$.01 per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2020, compared to a net loss of C$2.0 million, or $.01 per share, a year ago. SQI said its R&D costs grew 38 percent to C$1.8 million from C$1.3 million in Q1 2020 due to increased clinical development activity. The firm's SG&A expenses more than doubled to C$1.9 million from C$700,000 due to higher stock-based compensation and professional and consulting fees. SQI ended the quarter with C$5.1 million in cash and investments.

Diagnostics firm Oncocyte said this week it has signed an agreement with MultiPlan, making the company's DetermaRx lung cancer treatment stratification test available to consumers with access to MultiPlan's national primary and complementary networks at a pre-negotiated, undisclosed price per test. According to Oncocyte, the deal significantly broadens the accessibility of its test, with more than one million healthcare providers participating in these networks and 60 million health plan members having access to MultiPlan's services.

Gravity Diagnostics said this week that it has received accreditation from the College of American Pathologists. The Covington, Kentucky-based firm noted it has processed more than 2 million COVID-19 samples and begun to identify different variants of SARS-CoV-2. Most recently, the US Food and Drug Administration granted Gravity Emergency Use Authorization for a PCR-based test for the coronavirus, for use with an Everlywell direct-to-consumer nasal swab collection kit.

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. 

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