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Chronix to Use SOLiD 4 Sequencer for Biomarker Discovery

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This article has been updated to correct the name of Chronix's CEO.

Chronix Biomedical said this week that it has gained access to a Life Technologies SOLiD 4 sequencer that was recently installed at the University of Göttingen, a Chronix collaborator.

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

"The new system allows Chronix to screen and analyze 25 times more genomes each month far more cost-effectively than was possible with older methods. It has reduced the time needed to screen a genome by about 80 percent, while improving reproducibility of the results," the company said in a statement.

Chronix, based in San Jose, Calif., also has research facilities in Göttingen, Germany, where its senior scientists are working with the University of Göttingen's Institute of Veterinary Medicine and where the new sequencer is located.

Chronix is focused on developing disease-specific biomarkers based on DNA fragments that are released into the bloodstream by damaged and apoptotic cells. At the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting this year, Chronix presented data from a study involving 575 patients showing that its assay detected breast cancer and invasive prostate cancer with 92 percent sensitivity and 100 percent specificity (PGx Reporter 06/16/10).

Additionally, the company has published studies suggesting the utility of Chronix's screening approach in gauging the presence or absence of active disease in multiple sclerosis patients. Chronix's CEO Howard Urnovitz told Pharmacogenomics Reporter previously that the company intends to develop companion diagnostics and is in discussions to start testing "thousands of serum samples" (PGx Reporter 04/14/10).

Based on data from various trials, Chronix has launched an “Investigational Use Only” testing service enabling cancer researchers to monitor the status of patients in their clinical trials.

"The new mass sequencer will allow for more rapid and cost-effective screening of large quantities of IOU 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 in a statement.

Chronix's screening approach applies proprietary algorithms to detect and analyze disease-related DNA fragments released into the bloodstream by dying cells, which originate from chromosomal hotspots on the human genome. These chromosomal regions are linked to certain illnesses, and Chronix's diagnostic tests, by honing in on these areas, can "reliably detect the presence of [disease] without having first to isolate and analyze tumor cells."

The company views its platform-agnostic methodology to disease prognosis as an important advantage going forward.

"Our proprietary technology has demonstrated excellent accuracy in the early detection of breast cancer and prostate cancer, and these new mass sequencing capabilities will allow us to rapidly develop tests for cancer and other chronic diseases.” Ekkehard Schütz, VP of research at Chronix Biomedical, said in a statement.

The company said that the SOLiD 4 system has already enhanced the performance of Chronix’s initial tests for breast and prostate cancer, but did not provide further details.

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