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Belgium's Cartagenia Sets Up East Coast Shop to Expand North American Footprint

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By Uduak Grace Thomas

Belgian clinical bioinformatics firm Cartagenia is moving aggressively into the North American market with a new US office, a growing sales staff, and several new US customers.

The company said this week that it has opened a new office in Boston, Mass., that will be led by Drew Arnold, who will serve as vice president of sales and business development for North America. Prior to joining the company, Arnold led the global sales team for competitor GenomeQuest.

Additionally, Cartagenia plans to hire a number of sales and support staff that will be housed in the Boston office, CEO Herman Verrelst told BioInform this week.

The new office makes good on promises the company made when it closed a €2.2 million ($2.9 million) financing round last October. At the time, the company said that it planned to use its new funds to strengthen its market presence — which included setting up a US office and increasing its headcount — as well as advancing product development plans — which included the launch of clinical next-generation sequencing analysis workflows for its Bench Software suite in the first half of this year (BI 10/7/2011).

Verrelst told BioInform this week that the company will launch its NGS analysis product in the near future.

The new office will give Leuven, Belgium-based Cartagenia a North American foothold that will enable it to provide US clients with local support and services.

Arnold said in a statement that Cartagenia’s products are the “only analysis solutions specifically built for automating genetic interpretation from both [array comparative genomic hybridization] and sequence-based variant testing that links genotype to phenotype.”

The company claims to have a number of North American diagnostic and genetics labs on its client list although it has only disclosed the names of two — Gaithersburg, Md.-based Gene DX and the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.

These groups are using Cartagenia’s Bench Lab and Bench Clinic software as part of their diagnostic workflows to analyze the clinical validity of genetic variants generated on array CGH platforms in the context of patients’ clinical and phenotype information, Verrelst told BioInform.

The software lets lab researchers incorporate information from databases of known variants to assist with the interpretation and then generate reports that are sent back to referring physicians, he said.

In addition to expanding its sphere of influence in the US, Cartagenia is also partnering with about 20 clinical groups, research teams, and genetics labs in Europe and the US who are hoping to decipher the underlying genetics of rare epilepsy syndromes.

The Rare Epilepsy Syndromes research project is part of the European Science Foundation’s three-year EuroEpinomics program, which aims to study functional genomic variations in epilepsies.

Specifically, researchers involved in the RES project aim to identify genetic factors associated with rare monogenic epilepsy syndromes and epileptic encephalopathies. Around 10 percent of epilepsy patients suffer from these syndromes.

The project will use Cartagenia’s Bench Consortium platform to collect clinical, electrophysiological, and genealogical data on a cohort of 500 patients. The researchers will use the software to identify genes associated with seizure disorders using copy number variation analysis and next-generation sequencing technologies as well as to run genotype-phenotype correlation analyses.

The researchers plan to build a central phenotype database that will hold data on the patients in the study.

Cartagenia developed a customized version of its platform that conforms to RES requirements, which include RES-specific clinical data questionnaires to help physicians collect phenotype information on recruited individuals, Ingo Helbig, a research group leader at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein’s neuropediatrics department and one of the project investigators, said in a statement.

Cartagenia hopes its interactions with the RES Consortium will lead to a better understanding of genetic disease screening in clinics so that it can further develop its platform, Verrelst said.

The experience will “allow us to further develop the platform toward clinically informed interpretation of genetic variants [and] eventually translating valuable research findings and genome interpretation approaches into routine diagnostic practice,” he said.


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