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In Brief This Week: Natera, Caris Life Sciences, Fulgent Genetics, Castle Biosciences, More

NEW YORK – Natera this week announced the RenaCare clinical study, aimed at evaluating the clinical utility of the company's Renasight NGS genetic testing panel. The prospective, multi-center study has already enrolled 1,600 of a target of 2,000 participants across 25 sites within the US. It aims to demonstrate how genetic findings impact patient management and diagnostic outcomes in kidney disease. Other study goals include assessing patient satisfaction, health knowledge, and genetic literacy. 

Caris Life Sciences has opened a new liquid biopsy laboratory in Phoenix, expanding the company's molecular profiling capabilities, which include tumor profiling and blood-based cancer diagnostics. The $45 million investment in the new laboratory will enable the firm to continue to develop and launch its blood-based diagnostic assay, Caris Assure. It will also create hundreds of new bioscience job opportunities in Phoenix. According to Caris, the lab is one of the largest high-throughput sequencing facilities in the world and will provide profiling on blood specimens for up to 1,500 patients per day. It brings the company's total lab facility footprint in the state to approximately 160,000 square feet. 

Fulgent Genetics said this week that it has completed the acquisition of Inform Diagnostics for $170 million from Avista Capital Partners. Inform Diagnostics is a national pathology lab offering gastrointestinal pathology, dermatopathology, urologic pathology, and hematopathology testing. 

Castle Biosciences said this week that it has completed its acquisition of AltheaDx. Under the terms of the agreement, the pharmacogenomics firm became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Castle. At closing, $65 million in initial consideration was payable to AltheaDx security holders, consisting of $32.5 million in cash and $32.5 million in common stock. Up to an additional $75 million in cash and common stock will be payable in connection with the achievement of certain milestones based on 2022, 2023, and 2024 performance and expanded Medicare coverage for Althea's IDgenetix assay. 

Genetic Signatures this week reported A$8.7 million (US$6.2 million) in sales for the third quarter of its fiscal year 2022, which ended March 31, more than double the A$4.2 million in the year-ago quarter. The Australian infectious disease molecular diagnostics company said that 19 percent of its sales were international, mostly in Europe and the UK. The company is in the process of applying for clearance of its EasyScreen Protozoan Detection Kit by the US Food and Drug Administration. As of March 31, Genetic Signatures had A$39.0 million in cash. 

Novacyt said this week that it posted a profit of £19.2 million, attributable to its owners, for full-year 2021 compared to a loss of £29 million the year before. The French diagnostics firm said in January that its 2021 revenues were down 65 percent year over year due to a COVID-19 product supply dispute with the UK Department of Health and Social Care. 

Mayo Clinic said this week that it is investing $49 million to expand its laboratory in Rochester, Minnesota. The expansion will include new laboratory space for five clinical testing labs and Mayo Clinic Biopharma Diagnostics; an expanded and updated cafeteria for laboratory staff; and new laboratory support staff spaces at its Superior Drive Support Center. Construction has started and will continue through 2025. The laboratory expansion project follows recent announcements of investments at Mayo Clinic in Florida and across the Mayo Clinic Health System. 

Korean medical artificial intelligence company Vuno said last week that it will collaborate with the Mayo Clinic to develop machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to identify predictive and prognostic biomarkers in hopes of improving diagnosis and treatment of cancer.  

Biocompare, a life sciences product information site and a division of CompareNetworks, said this week that it has acquired Seqanswers, an online community for next-generation sequencing users. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founded in 2007 by Eric Olivares, now the CSO of Invitae, Seqanswers was created as an online space for people to discuss issues impacting the NGS community. According to Biocompare, Olivares will remain closely involved with Seqanswers during the transition of ownership and will continue to serve as an advisor afterwards. 

Centogene said this week that it has extended its commercial fee-for-service partnership with Takeda, aimed at diagnosing patients with rare lysosomal storage disorders such as Fabry and Gaucher disease, as well as Hunter syndrome. Under the agreement, Centogene will continue to provide Takeda with access to diagnostic testing for patients worldwide. 

Swedish diagnostic company Immunovia this week reported sales of SEK 182,000 ($18,500) for the first quarter, up from SEK 123,000 in the same period in 2021. Sales were divided between SEK 122,000 in test sales, compared to none in Q1 2021, and SEK 60,000 in royalties, down from SEK 123,000 in the prior-year quarter. The firm’s net loss was SEK 44.1 million, up from a net loss of SEK 23.4 million in Q1 2021, with a loss per share of SEK 1.95, compared to a loss per share of SEK 1.04 in the same quarter last year. Cash and cash equivalents at the end of March were SEK 240 million. 

Saol Therapeutics said this week that it has partnered with InformedDNA, which will offer genetic counseling to families of individuals with pyruvate dehydrogenase complex deficiency (PDCD), a rare mitochondrial disease. The counseling will also review potential participation in a Phase III clinical trial, in which Saol is a collaborator, that administers the investigational drug dichloroacetate (DCA) to children with PDCD. 

Becton Dickinson said this week that its board of directors has approved a quarterly cash dividend of $.87 per share of common stock, to be paid on June 30 to stockholders of record as of June 9. In addition, the firm said the indicated annual dividend rate is $3.48 per share. 

PerkinElmer said this week that its board declared a quarterly dividend of $.07 per share of common stock, payable on Aug. 12 to shareholders of record at the close of the business day on July 22.  

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

CRISPR Screens Reveal Heart Attack-Linked Gene

Researchers in PLOS Genetics have used CRISPR screens to home in on variants associated with coronary artery disease that affect vascular endothelial function.

Meta AI Computer Model Rapidly Predicts Hundreds of Millions of Metagenomic Proteins

Meta AI researchers describe in Science a new large language model that can predict the structures of millions of metagenomic proteins.

Hutch Team Develops Platform for Assessing Impact of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Mutations

The approach described in Cell relies on lentiviral pseudotyping for mutational scanning, which the researchers applied to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

Potential New Therapeutic Target for Rheumatoid Arthritis Discovered

Researchers report in the American Journal of Human Genetics that SNPs implicated in rheumatoid arthritis often regulate the expression of the inflammation-related SPRED2 gene.