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In Brief This Week: Invitae, City of Hope, Guardant Health, and More

NEW YORK – Invitae this week announced the availability of sponsored genetic testing for patients in the US, Canada, Australia, and Brazil who are suspected of having or who are at risk for common, adult-onset neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and early-onset Alzheimer's disease. With this program, Invitae is aiming to increase access to genetic testing for diseases that are hard to diagnose, so patients can benefit from earlier treatment or participation in research. To qualify for the no-cost genetic testing program, patients must be at least 18 years old, and their doctors should suspect they already have or are at risk for ALS, PD, or AD that manifests in individuals younger than 65 years old, or hereditary prion disease. Eligible patients may be exhibiting clinical symptoms, have a family history of early-onset disease, or know relatives who harbor a disease-causing genetic variant that Invitae tests for. Doctors must order genetic testing for their patients through this program, which includes clinical support, as well as genetic counseling for US and Canadian patients with positive test results. Invitae did not name the sponsors covering test costs within this program but said it may share de-identified patient data with them.


City of Hope this week said it has received a $50 million gift from the Lennar Foundation that it will put toward its $1 billion plans to develop a comprehensive cancer campus in Irvine, California, and build an advanced cancer care and research network in Orange County. The 190,000-square foot Lennar Foundation Cancer Center is currently under construction and is slated to open its doors in 2022. With the new cancer center, City of Hope is aiming to provide the region's 3.2 million residents with better access to clinical trials, the latest treatments for aggressive cancers, genomic and precision medicine interventions for preventing cancer or treating it in earlier stages, and a range of supportive care programs. City of Hope Irvine will also open a hospital dedicated only to treating cancer patients in 2025. Additionally, a portion of the gift will fund translational research between City of Hope and the University of Miami's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center aimed at advancing precision medicine approaches and eliminating health disparities.


Guardant Health said this week that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has granted Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory Test (ADLT) status to its Guardant360 CDx test.

Obtaining ADLT status — which is reserved for FDA-approved tests or other innovative products that provide novel clinical information that cannot be otherwise obtained — initiates a specific, market-based approach to test pricing for the Medicare-covered population. Over the course of nine months, Guardant will collect and submit private-payor payment rate data for its test and CMS will then use the median to determine a new price, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. In the meantime, Guardant360 CDx will be reimbursed at a rate of $5,000 for Medicare patients.


Bluestar Genomics said this week that it has received US Food and Drug Administration Breakthrough Device Designation for its pancreatic cancer liquid biopsy assay in patients with new-onset diabetes. The test uses a patient’s blood sample to identify abnormal epigenomic and genomic signatures linked to pancreatic cancer.


Yourgene Health said this week that its Yourgene Genomic Services COVID-19 testing services have been approved by the UK's Department of Health and Social Care and that the company has been added to the UK government's list of approved providers for testing international travelers for SARS-CoV-2 several days after their arrival. The approval includes both Yourgene's Clarigene SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing service and its genome sequencing testing service that uses ThermoFisher's AmpliSeq SARS-CoV-2 Research Panel.


Charles River Laboratories said this week it has acquired UK-based Retrogenix, an early-stage contract research organization providing bioanalytical services using its proprietary cell microarray technology. These services include target receptor identification, off-target profiling, and target deconvolution on a wide range of therapeutics including biologics, cell therapies, and small molecules. Charles River said the acquisition will enhance its capabilities in large-molecule and cell therapy discovery. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.


Cancer Genetics said this week that it has closed its previously announced merger with StemoniX. As part of the transaction, Cancer Genetics was renamed Vyant Bio, effective March 30. StemoniX will operatas a wholly owned subsidiary of the firm. Vyant Bio will be traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol VYNT.


Danaher's Cytiva announced this week that it has opened a new diagnostics design laboratory in Tonglu, China to allow companies to access its diagnostic services offerings, including laboratory infrastructure, technical expertise, and consultation. The Asia Diagnostics Advanced Application Center has raw material research advice, support to scale up production and manufacturing of lateral flow tests, and provides access to a laboratory for companies that may not have their own lab space. Last year, Cytiva began offering a new diagnostic service to help labs and diagnostic firms accelerate development of rapid, point-of-care immunoassays.


Angle said this week that it has completed fitting out and staffing its clinical service laboratories in Guildford, UK and Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. The labs will enable the UK-based firm to accelerate deployment of the Parsortix system for use in cancer drug trials. When the labs are accredited and the firm's tests are validated, they will also offer laboratory-developed tests, Angle added. The company plans to seek ISO15189 accreditation in the US, as well as CLIA accreditation. Angle said the first LDT it anticipates making available is the Ovarian Cancer Pelvic Mass Triage assay. In September, the company said it had filed a de novo submission with the US Food and Drug Administration for the Parsortix system for use with metastatic breast cancer patients.


The College of American Pathologists said this week that it has been reapproved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as an accreditation organization for clinical labs. CAP currently accredits about 8,000 labs worldwide. According to CAP, CMS determined that the organization had met or exceeded the applicable CLIA requirements in its application for reapprovalAs part of its accreditation process, CAP sends teams to perform on-site inspections every two years.


Precision medicine and molecular profiling company Theralink Technologies said this week that it received a Clinical and Public Health License from the State of California for its laboratory in Golden, Colorado, effective March 11. The results of the California license will allow Theralink to accept and perform testing on human specimens from California at its Colorado lab


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. 

The Scan

J&J Booster Support

A US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has voted to support a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, according to the Los Angeles Times.

To Keep the Cases Moving

The president of the UK Royal College of Pathologists tells the Financial Times that more investment is needed to tackle a backlog of cases.

NAS Expels Archaeologist

Science reports Luis Jaime Castillo Butters' expulsion is the first of an international member from the US National Academy of Sciences.

PLOS Papers on Angelman Syndrome-Like Cases, Salmonella Paratyphi A, SARS-CoV-2 in Brazil

In PLOS this week: exome sequencing analysis of Angelman syndrome-like cases, genetic epidemiology of Salmonella Paratyphi A, and more.