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Genophen Taps NextBio Clinical to Incorporate Genomic Data into Disease Risk Software


NextBio announced this week that it has formed a partnership with Genophen, a Stanford University spinout, which will focus on generating personalized disease prevention and wellness plans for patients based on a combination of genomic, clinical, environmental, and behavioral data.

Specifcially, Genophen is partnering with NextBio so that it can use the NextBio Clinical platform to analyze genetic variants from whole genome sequence data and combine these with information on things like diet, family history, and exercise to create bespoke disease prevention plans for patients.

Genophen's President and CEO Hossein Fakhrai-Rad told BioInform that the company tapped NextBio's platform because it offered access to a curated database of genomic variants that are associated with various disease conditions, and because it expands Genophen's own internally built repository. The arrangement also lets Genophen focus its efforts on disease risk assessment rather than spend time going through the literature and linking variants and diseases, he said.

Founded in 2008 at the Stanford Genome Technology Center, Genophen has developed a software system dubbed 'the Genophen platform' that uses a series of proprietary algorithms to assess patients' risk of developing complex or multi-factorial diseases such as type II diabetes based on genetic, clinical, environmental, and behavioral information. The platform then provides personalized recommendations to help patients minimize their risk. The platform also prioritizes factors that increase patients' risk based on their health profiles, and calculates how lifestyle changes could help reduce risk.

Genophen plans to launch its platform publicly in a few weeks, and it will include new features such as a new user interface, Fakhrai-Rad said. He added that in the last year his company has been putting the platform through its paces with a select group of physicians and patients via a pilot project and a currently ongoing beta test program.

The company has also partnered with Illumina's CLIA laboratory to handle the whole-genome sequencing aspect of its business, Fakhrai-Rad said. Also, it is finalizing arrangements with a second CLIA lab that will offer genotyping services, which are less comprehensive than NGS but much cheaper, Fakhrai-Rad said.

In addition, Fakhrai-Rad stressed that the company will not offer a direct-to-consumer service, but will work in concert with physicians and genetic counselors who will be responsible for discussing a recommended course of action with patients and helping them make decisions about next steps.

For NextBio, the partnership with Genophen reflects a growing demand for its tools from healthcare providers who are looking to make it easier to use whole-genome and targeted sequencing data, NextBio CEO Saeid Akhtari told BioInform.

Historically, the company's products have been patronized by customers in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries involved in drug research and development. However, since the launch of NextBio Clinical last April (BI 4/27/2012), it has begun to receive business from clients in the clinical market including cancer centers, hospitals, and diagnostic companies, Akhtari said.

For instance, last June the company announced that the Cancer Care Institute had licensed its product portfolio — which also includes the NextBio Research software — to analyze oncology patient data for research studies and to select appropriate treatments for patients based on their molecular profiles (BI 6/29/2012).

Earlier this year, Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute and the Aflac Cancer Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta tapped NextBio Clinical to support their partnership, which is focused on identifying biomarkers that can predict brain cancer metastasis in children in order to help clinicians determine which patients should receive radiation therapy (BI 1/25/2013).

And NextBio expects that the demand for its clinical software to continue to grow and even surpass demand from the pharma/biotech market over the next few years as more clinicians and patients continue to avail themselves of sequencing and molecular profiling technologies, Akhtari said.

The software is also holding its own, Akhtari said, against competing products such as KnomeClinic, a software suite launched by Knome for interpreting and annotating human genomes(BI 6/15/2012).

NextBio believes customers prefer its offering, according to Akhtari, because it provides access to analytic capabilities on private cloud infrastructure so that customers don't have to purchase their own hardware; offers comprehensive curated content; and comes with an adaptive learning knowledgebase that uses newly incorporated information from patients to improve correlations between variants and disease. The company also updates its software and database content regularly in response to customers' requests, he said.

Akhtari said that NextBio has potential deals currently going through an "approval process" with other companies besides Genophen, but declined to disclose who those new clients are.