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Ottawa Hospital Developing Oncology Sequencing Lab, Recruits Leader, Raises $1.4M

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Ottawa Hospital plans to open a new molecular oncology lab that will use next-generation sequencing and other diagnostic technologies in cancer patient care and in research projects.

The hospital said this week it has raised C$1.5 million (US$1.4 million) of a targeted C$3 million that it will use to build a facility for the new Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Laboratory, which is a partnership between the hospital's research institute, the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association, and the University of Ottawa.

The hospital also has recruited Bryan Lo, who recently was a research fellow at Genentech, to head the lab as lead scientist and medical director.

The lab will offer tumor profiling and pharmacogenetic and other diagnostic tests. It also will accelerate the return times for patients' results, as the hospital will not have to send samples to other labs in Canada or the US for sophisticated genetic testing.

Currently, the lab is located in a temporary space on Ottawa Hospital's General campus, and it will move into a new facility at some point after the fundraising goal has been achieved.

Lo told GenomeWeb Daily News today that the partners have not yet decided on which sequencing platform the lab will use and are currently comparing options.

Although many other details of the lab's activities and programs also are still in development, Lo said the long-term vision is to incorporate sequencing more and more in cancer patient care.

"Almost all forward-thinking oncologists and pathologists agree that this is where the whole field is headed," he said. "The technologies are extremely enabling, and now the challenge for the field is to make sense of this new [genomic] information and to take the most important and relevant parts for the benefit of our patients."

Lo said the lab's situation between the Ottawa Hospital and its Research Institute puts it in an ideal spot to tap into their synergies.

One strength of this lab is that it is going to be next to a genetics core facility that is housed within the Research Institute at Ottawa Hospital, he said, and noted that the lab also will be involved in a range of translational research projects. The hospital is involved in multiple clinical trials every year, he said, such as Ottawa's study of the use of oncolytic virus therapies to treat cancer.

"The strength is in the clinicians, oncologists, and pathologists that are here [at Ottawa Hospital], and the scientists at the Research Institute. It is kind of a unique place where everybody seems very much aligned for the same purposes," said Lo.