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Axio Research Adds Tailored Statistical Services to Address Biopharma's Genomic Analysis Needs

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Axio Research, a biostatistics consulting company, has added a statistical service offering that's intended to help biopharmaceutical customers analyze and interpret genomic data in drug discovery and development, drug repositioning, and companion diagnostics development projects.

Axio's interdisciplinary service will be headed by David Henderson, who has joined the company in the newly minted role of director of statistical genetics. Under his leadership, the services division will support biopharma researchers' efforts to "uncover specific genetic components of complex human disorders and quantitative traits, as well as to advance new and enhanced drugs and diagnostics," Axio CEO Lee Hooks said in a statement.

The company added the service to its portfolio, Hooks said, because of a perceived need in the pharma and biotech industry for "advanced statistical analysis capabilities to address the challenge of interpreting the complex datasets being generated by genomics assays — specifically those in next-generation sequencing."

Before joining Axio, Henderson provided business consulting services to biopharma, helping clients in the space design experiments and analyze and interpret genomic and genetic data. He began his career as an assistant professor at University of Arizona and then moved on to Yale University where he worked as part of a research team on creating genomic data analysis software. From there, he moved on to Revolution Analytics, which develops commercial statistical software and services based on the open source R project, and then went on to work at Rosetta Inpharmatics with a team that would eventually form Sage Bionetworks. He's also worked in data analysis units at LabCorp Clinical Trials and Covance.

As Axio begins building its genetics statistics team and offering, the company will be relying on Henderson's experience in the space as well as parlaying expertise it has gleaned from nearly 35 years of working in biopharma into what it hopes will be a useful offering for the market. While this is not the company's first interaction with genetic data, this is the first time it will be will be working with data at this scale, according to Henderson.

"We intend to leverage the deep statistical expertise that exists within Axio as well as the statistical training that I have … to bring additional rigor to the field that I feel has not necessarily always been there," he said, and that should distinguish the company's offering from existing products in the market that claim to provide similar capabilities to biopharma companies.

Specifically, the new Axio unit will use statistical and computational methods and tools — some of which come from the Bioconductor project, and some of which are custom tools Henderson has developed over time — to analyze large-scale datasets from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) as well as methylation, gene expression, genotyping, copy-number variation, and next-generation sequencing experiments. The unit will also assist clients with experimental design, and develop tools that clients can use to explore and view analysis results.

Historically, Axio has provided biostatistics services and support to data monitoring committees (DMCs) — the independent bodies that monitor patient safety and treatment efficacy during clinical trials. Axio analyzes the data that biopharma companies submit to the DMCs and reports back to the committee. Axio also offers other biostatistics support within the clinical trials space; for example, it helps companies generate statistical reports, and provides data management services, custom web-based data collection tools, and more.

But this new service is separate from Axio's DMC offering and will have a much broader wingspan than just the clinical trials data analysis; it will extend to cover other aspects of the research and development spectrum, Henderson told BioInform. That would include, for instance, early exploratory studies focused on identifying biomarkers and statistical analysis for drug repositioning or laboratory-developed tests.

Pricing will be determined on a per-project basis and Axio's statistical genetics team will work with clients to design the project including an estimated timeline and clearly defined milestones to measure progress.

Meanwhile Axio is looking to fill some new positions within its new statistical unit. Specifically it is looking for statistical programmers as well as data analysts, and will in the future hire doctoral-level statistical geneticists.

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