This week, healthcare technology vendor Cerner and Claritas Genomics, a genetic diagnostic testing company, announced a partnership focused on building tools that will help clinical laboratories advance next-generation sequencing-based testing into the traditional molecular diagnostic setting.
Specifically, the partners plan to develop and launch in the next two years a cloud-based laboratory information management system (LIMS) that can handle the data processing and analysis steps required for NGS-based workflows, according to Maki Moussavi, Cerner's senior practice manager for genomic solutions.
The LIMS, she told BioInform will enable users to integrate the instruments and analysis software that they use as part of their sequencing workflows and help them move sequence data across these systems.
Separately, Claritas is implementing Millenium Helix, Cerner's laboratory information system for capturing data from traditional molecular diagnostics activities such as SNP testing and cytogenetics as part of its collaboration with the healthcare technology firm. It will use the solution for its non-NGS-based testing activities in addition to helping Cerner develop its new cloud solution, Moussavi said.
The partners plan to begin testing an early version of the new LIMS at Claritas in 2014, ahead of the full commercial release planned for the following year.
As part of the relationship, Cerner Capital, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cerner, has invested in Claritas, becoming a minority shareholder and bringing to a close the company's Series A round. Also, Clay Patterson, managing director of Cerner Capital, now sits on Claritas' board of directors. In addition, Claritas will join Cerner's Reference Lab Network, which provides a single interface for ordering tests and returning results.
Meanwhile, Cerner's considering adding new partners to its LIMS development program. According to Moussavi, a number of Helix customers have indicated their interest in branching out into the NGS-based testing arena and the company is currently sorting through potential partnerships.
"We will be forming what we call an advisory board of clients," she said. It will basically be "a small tight group of clients who have some experience in [NGS] to make sure that any development that we do is not specifically tailored to a particular site but takes into consideration all the different workflows and use cases."
Claritas, for instance, focuses more on pediatric testing "but we will have other clients who are focused on oncology and other areas and we want to make sure that we are not developing to a particular specialty," she added. Furthermore, although Cerner is targeting clinical testing laboratories, the LIMS software will also be flexible enough for research use, Moussavi said.