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In Brief This Week: Thermo Fisher Scientific, Yourgene Health, Applied DNA Sciences, and More

NEW YORK – Thermo Fisher Scientific said this week that it is extending its SARS-CoV-2 GlobalAccess Sequencing Program, providing additional units of its Ion Torrent Genexus and Ion GeneStudio S5 sequencers at a subsidized price for global COVID-19 research and surveillance. The program was launched last May to speed up multi-institutional efforts to map coronavirus transmission and was expanded in July to laboratories working in oncology. 

Thermo Fisher also said this week that is has completed the acquisition of HenogenNovasep's viral vector manufacturing business in Belgium, for approximately €725 million ($879 million) in cash. The business provides contract manufacturing services for vaccines and therapies to biotechnology companies and large biopharmaceutical customers and has two locations in Belgium. It was founded more than 20 years ago and has approximately 400 employees. Last year, Henogen had approximately €80 million in revenues.

Yourgene Health said this week that it has partnered with CityDoc Medical and ReCoVa-19 for its Clarigene SARS-CoV-2 assay. CityDoc will oversee customer management and offer clinical support for Yourgene's test for the UK government's "Test To Release" program for international travelers. In particular, CityDoc will manage the e-commerce function and logistics, allowing customers to order a sample collection kit and returning the sample to Yourgene's laboratory. ReCoVa-19 will provide access to its customer-facing COVID testing and wellness monitoring app, which enables sample tracking and allows customers to access their test results.

Applied DNA Sciences closed a registered direct offering this week totaling approximately $15 million. The offering was made to a group of institutional investors pursuant to a shelf registration statement dated May 21, 2020. It totals 1,810,000 shares of common stock at a price of $8.30 per share. Separately, in response to a recent FDA alert about mutations, the company is relaunching its sales and marketing strategy to center on its Linea COVID-19 Assay Kit's potential ability to signal for the presence of a SARS-CoV-2 variant due to S-gene target dropout.

British Columbia-based cancer genomic testing firm Canexia Health this week provided several updates related to Project ACTT (Access to Cancer Testing & Treatment in Response to COVID-19), an effort it launched in July 2020 to provide circulating tumor DNA testing to cancer patients and enable selection of treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, while biopsy surgeries are delayed. More than 800 cancer patients in Canada have received ctDNA testing since the start of Project ACTT, which has received samples from patients in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. The company estimated that 11 percent of samples are from patients in rural areas that often lack access to genomic testing. Canexia further noted that Pfizer, Novartis, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority have also joined the collaboration. The company also said that the project is generating data that will help accelerate Canadian provincial health coverage for ctDNA testing for cancer treatment selection over the long term.

Precision genetic medicine company Akouosa and Blueprint Genetics this week announced that they’ve partnered to create the Resonate program, a program that offers genetic testing to eligible individuals with auditory neuropathy. Resonate it being offered at no cost to participants, their insurance companies, or their healthcare providers.

The Resonate program is now available in the US, and Akouosa and Blueprint said they plan to expand it to additional geographic regions throughout 2021. Individuals of any age can paticipate, and they must have a current or prior clinical diagnosis of auditory neuropathy or a medical history consistent with auditory neuropathy. The program will provide access to the Blueprint Genetics Comprehensive Hearing Loss and Deafness Panel, which includes more than 230 genes associated with genetic forms of hearing loss.

UK medical products and services firm Excalibur Healthcare Services said this week that its antigen screening test for SARS-CoV-2 has been approved by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for mass screening for COVID-19 in asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and symptomatic patients in that country. The Rapid SARS COV-2 Antigen Screening test is CE marked and was designed to be used in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, clinics, care homes, educational establishments, businesses, offices, and construction sites, as well as transport, entertainment, and sporting venues. A clinical trial conducted at the Catholic University of Korea Incheon St. Mary's Hospital with 659 patients demonstrated an overall sensitivity of 96 percent, accurately corresponding to RT-qPCR-confirmed COVID-19 cases, the company said, adding it has a specificity of 100 percent.

Broome Oncology, a provider of oncology and hematology services in Central New York, said this week it has integrated Deep Lens' artificial intelligence-based screening and enrollment platform, called VIPER, to help its clinical trial care team members identify and match patients to precision oncology trials. Deep Lens' platform combines data from lab tests, electronic medical records, and genomic data to match patients to trials. The company said that identifying cancer patients eligible for clinical trials is a time-consuming process that often requires manual searches of patient records and office notes, a task even more challenging amid the pandemic, which has created workforce limitations. VIPER should help to streamline the identification and screening process, Broome added.

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.