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Sema4, Avera Health Collaborate on Precision Oncology Program

NEW YORK – Genetic testing and bioinformatics company Sema4 said on Wednesday that it is joining with Avera Health to create a data-driven precision medicine program for the healthcare system.

The initiative, which will start with oncology, will apply Sema4's Centrellis cloud-based health intelligence platform to manage, structure, analyze, and integrate genomic and clinical data collected through the Avera Cancer Institute. It builds on a precision oncology program the institute has had for several years that involved sequencing cancer patients' tumors to guide their treatment.

This new program will support both clinical and research activities at Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Avera Health, which has more than 300 locations in the Upper Midwest.

According to Sema4, the firm will create predictive disease network models and deliver clinically actionable knowledge to Avera Health clinicians. The company will also provide tools for practitioners and researchers to improve patient matching to clinical trials.

In addition, Sema4 will offer Avera Health its suite of genomic testing services, including the firm's Signal whole-exome sequencing, whole-transcriptome sequencing, and hereditary cancer testing. Sema4 said that this will allow cancer patients at Avera to receive genomic testing and analysis earlier in their disease journeys.

"Our collaboration with Avera Health will accelerate discoveries which help oncologists provide optimized care to individual cancer patients in real time," William Oh, Sema4's chief medical science officer, said in a statement. He said that Avera Health "shares our vision" to improve patients' lives using clinical and genomic data.

"Our collaboration with Sema4, and the resulting access to curated and structured real-time oncology data, will allow our providers to leverage cutting-edge tools that will improve the delivery and quality of cancer care," said John Lee, chief medical officer for cancer research at the Avera Cancer Institute. "This access to increasingly rich clinical data throughout the patient journey will also accelerate critical, lifesaving treatment options."

Casey Williams, Avera Health's CSO for cancer research, said that the partnership eventually will cover the organization's six cancer centers, 37 hospitals, and 40 "outreach sites," helping thousands of patients. Williams did not offer a timetable for the rollout.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Sema4 went public last month through a $500 million merger with special-purpose acquisition company CM Life Sciences.

In May, the company entered into a partnership with AdventHealth to expand the Orlando, Florida-based health system's existing personalized health program with Sema4's artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. A Sema4 spokesperson said that this deal is similar to one the company announced a month earlier with NorthShore University HealthSystem in the Chicago area.