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BioReference Acquires Edge BioServ to Incorporate into an Expanding GeneDx


This story was originally published Aug. 23.

BioReference Laboratories has acquired EdgeBio's sequencing services business Edge BioServ, which it will incorporate into its wholly-owned subsidiary GeneDx to enhance its sequencing capacity as the company's genetic testing business grows.

Sherri Bale, managing director of GeneDx, told Clinical Sequencing News that aside from additional sequencing capacity, the acquisition would also give GeneDx access to different sequencing platforms.

"We really want to be able to expand our capacity further and we want to be able to gain from the tremendous experience that Edge has with other platforms that we do not have as much experience with, particularly the Life platforms."

EdgeBio is equipped with Illumina's HiSeq 2000 and MiSeq, as well as Life Technologies' Ion Torrent PGM and Ion Proton instruments.

EdgeBio and GeneDx began collaborating about a year and a half ago when EdgeBio started the CLIA certification process and Bale took on the role of clinical laboratory director at EdgeBio, while keeping her position as managing director of GeneDx. She said that she became interested in EdgeBio because GeneDx's clinical exome sequencing program was "growing way faster than we could handle," and GeneDx "needed excess capacity for sequencing, and of course it had to be done in a CLIA environment."

Dean Gaalaas, who has served as CEO of EdgeBio since 2004 but will transition to COO at GeneDx, said that EdgeBio has always been interested in moving sequencing into the clinic.

"Once we became CLIA certified and started to understand what it would take to be a full-fledged clinical genomics lab with a dedicated sales and marketing force, genetic counselors, and clinicians to sign off on the report, instead of taking the risk of building that ourselves, we started to look for a partner," he told CSN. "Once GeneDx showed interest in acquiring our services division, it quickly became a no-brainer that was the direction we wanted to head."

As COO of GeneDx, Gaalaas said he will be responsible for many of the business aspects associated with a growing clinical genomics lab, such as continuing to build out infrastructure. Gaalaas said that GeneDx has grown to over 250 employees since its inception and was interested in hiring someone with experience on the business side. Previously, the genetic testing firm was without a COO.

With the EdgeBio acquisition, Bale said that the first step would be to validate all of EdgeBio's instruments under CLIA, which she anticipated would take three to four months, after which the company would begin developing tests on the new systems.

She declined to disclose specifics about the types of tests that would be developed on the PGM and Proton. She said the company is looking to expand its suite of tests and is also considering converting some of its current tests to a different platform in cases where it would be more efficient.

Gaalaas said that the company would use metrics such as turnaround time, cost, and accuracy for determining which test should run on which platform. EdgeBio has "a lot of experience working with Life Tech," he said, "so we'll be able to help [GeneDx] quickly assimilate those technologies and provide some guidance as to where those technologies may or may not be a better fit with some of the tests they want to launch."

Gaalaas said that while he is "constantly evaluating technology platforms," the "business segments we're in now are well served by the Illumina and Life platforms." But if, for instance, "we start to get into business segments where [Pacific Biosciences' RS machine] would make sense from utilization, cost, turnaround time, we'll investigate that."

Aside from Gaalaas, a number of employees from EdgeBio's research and development team, including bioinformaticians, will also make the move to GeneDx.

Additionally, while BioReference is acquiring the services portion of EdgeBio, its products business will remain intact, said Gaalaas, who will also remain as a consultant to EdgeBio. Tara Bennink, who has served as EdgeBio's product manager, will take on the role of general manager and be responsible for daily operational duties at EdgeBio.

GeneDx will also take on some of EdgeBio's clinical exome and research sequencing business in cases where "we and the clients believe there is a gain for us in working together," said Bale.

"We will continue to provide some of the services that Edge has always provided, but we'll be picking and choosing the particular contracts we decide to go with, rather than all comers."

Gaalaas added that the contracts wouldn't necessarily be clinical cases, and could be research contracts for biomarker discovery or working with other industry partners to develop companion diagnostic tests.

"Going forward, the acquisition will allow GeneDx other opportunities in other business segments, and it will take time to evaluate what we do or do not want to pursue," he said.