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Invitae Acquiring Jungla for up to $65M to Enhance Variant Interpretation

NEW YORK – Invitae today announced a $50 million deal to acquire Jungla, an artificial intelligence-driven biotech firm that it believes will enhance its variant interpretation capabilities.

Jungla has developed the cloud-based Functional Modeling Platform, which uses machine learning to integrate functional, structural, and computational data and create predictive models that can be used to interpret the clinical significance of genomic variants. Invitae sees this technology as complementary to its own variant classification and interpretation method, called Sherloc.

Under the definitive agreement, Invitae said it would acquire Jungla for around $50 million, $35 million of which it expects to pay in common stock and $15 million in cash, subject to adjustments. Under the deal, Invitae could pay up to $15 million more in stocks and cash if certain milestones are met.

"Bringing Jungla's technologies onto our platform will help us provide support to our patients in a scalable way," Invitae CEO Sean George said in a statement.

Invitae and Jungla last year conducted a four-month pilot study to assess the ability of the Functional Modeling Platform in predicting the clinical relevance of genetic variants detected in patients undergoing testing for hereditary diseases. The study convinced Invitae that Jungla's technology can make the variant interpretation process more efficient while maintaining the accuracy.

Additionally, the results showed that Jungla's technologies, by improving understanding of the clinical role of genetic variants, can help move them from the uncertain category to pathogenic or benign status.

"Combining our learning engine with Invitae's rigorous interpretation framework will extend the reach of our technology and help more patients and clinicians get the information they need," Jungla CEO Carlos Araya said in a statement.

The acquisition is expected to close soon, subject to closing conditions. Invitae said it has factored in this additional expense in its prior financial projections for the year.

Simultaneously, Invitae also announced it would begin conducing RNA-seq as part of its program to resolve variants of unknown significance detected by genetic tests for hereditary cancer syndromes. Certain VUS can affect RNA splicing, and by qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing mRNAs Invitae hopes to garner additional insights into gene-disease relationships.  

"The addition of RNA analysis to our variant classification pipeline provides another tool to reduce the number of variants that cannot be confidently classified based on DNA sequencing alone," Invitae's Chief Medical Officer Robert Nussbaum said in a statement. "By applying this technology first to those cancer genes and variants where it is most immediately useful, we can provide deeper, more complete genetic information for patients and clinicians making critical clinical decisions."

Invitae hopes to expand the use of RNA-Seq to VUS resolution efforts in other disease settings later this year.

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