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JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Day Two: Good Start Genetics, RainDance Technologies, Cellular Dynamics

SAN FRANCISCO (GenomeWeb News) – The 32nd Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference continued here Tuesday with presentations from several life science tools and diagnostic firms.

The following are capsules from the presentations and breakout sessions of Good Start Genetics, RainDance Technologies, and Cellular Dynamics. Coverage of Illumina's presentation, in which the company introduced two new sequencing platforms and reported preliminary fourth quarter figures, is available here.

Good Start Genetics

Don Hardison, president and CEO of Good Start Genetics, said that the privately held firm estimates its 2013 revenues will be approximately $32 million, well above the $25 million the firm said it was aiming for last February. Its fourth quarter revenues were roughly $10.5 million.

Good Start remains focused on the pre-pregnancy IVF market, but it has plans to enter the prenatal market in the near future with a sales push to maternal fetal medicine/Ob-Gyn clinics. Hardison said that the company expects to announce a partnership soon for that effort, though he didn't provide further details. Good Start had 10 sales reps of its own as of Q4 2013, he also noted, but it expects to ink additional partnerships as it expands its target markets and aims to move into international markets.

Good Start has insurance coverage contracts with MultiPlan, TRPN, HealthSmart, and Tufts, which it announced yesterday.

Hardison also noted that the company recently hired a CIO to evaluate ways the firm can further use all the data it is generating through its proprietary informatics.


RainDance Technologies

RainDance Technologies CEO Roopom Banerjee introduced a new platform called Thunderbolts. It combines RainDance’s sample prep and targeted sequencing technologies with next-gen sequencing.

The first Thunderbolts product is a cancer panel that covers all actionable cancer mutations in a single test. The new offering marks RainDance’s first move beyond genomics tools into cancer-based assays. According to Banerjee, the test profiles all cancer mutations for under $100 and it requires only 10 ng of starting DNA.

Though Thunderbolts can be used with all of the commercially available next-gen sequencing platforms, RainDance debuted data Tuesday on the cancer panel generated using Illumina's MiSeq. Thunderbolts is designed initially to be compatible with Illumina's NGS systems, company officials said.

Banerjee said that the molecular pathology market represents a $1 billion opportunity, but RainDance intends to expand beyond that market. He said the firm plans a future assay targeting latent HIV.


Cellular Dynamics

Reporting at the conference for the first time as a publicly traded entity, stem cell technology firm Cellular Dynamics reiterated rapid growth in its business and laid out plans for the continued expansion of its operations in existing as well as new markets.

Growth was greatest in the firm's in vitro research business, which saw revenues spike to $10.7 million for the 12 months ended Sept. 30, compared to $4.6 million in the year-ago period, CEO Robert Palay said, adding CDI's customer base rose to 142 from 115 in that period.

He estimated the in vitro research market at $3.5 million with mid-single digit growth, and said that 18 of the top 20 pharmaceutical firms were CDI's customers in that business.

Additionally, the company announced a supply agreement with Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences earlier this month for CDI's iCell and MyCell product lines, marking the firm's initial entry into the food research space. While he did not disclose the terms of the Nestlé agreement, Palay said that it would result in "significant" revenues for CDI.

Additionally, Palay said that he anticipated CDI's platform would eventually move into the cosmetics and chemicals assessment spaces.

A second target market for the company is in stem cell banking, which he estimated at $1.3 billion. In March, CDI was awarded a three-year $16 million contract by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to create three iPSC lines for each of 3,000 diseased and healthy donors. Then last month, CDI announced a service agreement for up to $6.3 million with the Coriell Institute for Medical Research related to a separate CIRM grant received by Coriell.

Lastly, Palay pointed to in vivo therapeutics as the company's third target market with a size of $5 billion. The firm has not recorded any revenues yet in this space and has only just begun discussions with therapeutic firms for use of CDI's technologies in the market, he said.

CDI's goal, he said, is to make its platform the standard in all three of its target markets.

The Scan

Shape of Them All

According to BBC News, researchers have developed a protein structure database that includes much of the human proteome.

For Flu and More

The Wall Street Journal reports that several vaccine developers are working on mRNA-based vaccines for influenza.

To Boost Women

China's Ministry of Science and Technology aims to boost the number of female researchers through a new policy, reports the South China Morning Post.

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