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Chronix to Access New SOLiD 4 at University of Göttingen

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By Bernadette Toner

This article has been updated from a previous version originally published on Aug. 18 to include information about the company's use of the 454 sequencing platform.

Diagnostic developer Chronix Biomedical said last week that it has gained access to a Life Technologies SOLiD 4 sequencer that was recently installed at its partner site at the University of Göttingen.

Chronix said it will use the sequencer to accelerate its development of serum DNA biomarkers related to various cancers and chronic diseases.

The SOLiD system was installed at the sequencing lab in the university's Institute of Veterinary Medicine. Julia Beck, who runs the lab, is a senior scientist at Chronix, which is based in San Jose, Calif.

Chronix is using sequencing to identify profiles of circulating DNAs and RNAs that can detect chronic diseases such as some cancers and neurologic and autoimmune diseases.

Prior to the delivery of the university's SOLiD 4, the company outsourced its sequencing requirements to service providers, including Eurofins Medigenomix in Germany, which provided sequencing on the Roche 454 platform (IS 3/31/2009).

A Chronix spokeswoman said last week that the company plans to use the SOLiD 4 for biomarker development and for a newly launched "investigative use only" cancer testing service, but will continue to use the 454 technology for follow-up studies on some samples.

The company said in a statement that the new sequencer "has already enhanced the performance of Chronix’s initial tests for breast and prostate cancer, and is expected to accelerate development and commercialization efforts across the board."

At the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in June, researchers from Chronix and Vanderbilt University presented initial data on a study that used circulating nucleic acid sequences to assess breast or prostate cancer in patients compared to healthy controls.

The study, which involved 178 breast cancer patients, 197 prostrate cancer patients, and 200 controls, used 454 sequencing to identify "a number of small areas (2 kbp to 50 kbp in length) where hits from cancer samples uniquely clustered," according to the ASCO abstract. "Utilizing these 'hot spots,' 92 percent of breast cancer and prostate cancer patients and 100 percent of healthy controls could be classified correctly," they said.

The researchers concluded that "comparative massive parallel sequencing of serum DNA from cancer patients versus controls identified unique chromosomal hotspots for prostate and breast cancer of high sensitivity and specificity amenable to translation to a clinical diagnostic platform."

Based on these results, the company said that it has recently launched a research-use-only service that allows cancer researchers to monitor the status of patients in clinical trials. The new sequencer "will allow for more rapid and cost-effective screening of large quantities of [these] samples, allowing Chronix to meet increasing demand for the service from clinical investigators while also conducting studies to expand its menu of tests," the company said.

Beck noted in a statement that the company's technology is "platform-agnostic," which allows it "to select the hardware with the optimal performance criteria."

She added that the "results to date with this highly automated sequencer are very encouraging."

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