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GenoSpace, Thomson Reuters Partner on Gene Variant Database for Medical Use

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Thomson Reuters said this week that Cambridge, Mass.-based GenoSpace has joined the roster of companies that are part of its Life Sciences Partner Ecosystem and that it will work with the informatics startup to develop an integrated product offering for analyzing and interpreting human genomic variation.

Specifically, Thomson Reuters said that it will work with its new partner to annotate and publish a curated gene variant database — which will be available via GenoSpace's cloud platform — that will contain variants with medical and scientific utility. The database will include information about pathway and disease biology, as well as regulatory and financial information.

The partners expect that the offering will be of interest to hospitals, health systems, disease foundations, and pharmaceutical research organizations.

John Quackenbush, GenoSpace's CEO, described the partnership with Thomson Reuters as a "natural" fit for the company and a source of "tremendous added value to what we've already been doing."

GenoSpace was founded last year and earlier this summer launched its cloud-based platform, which provides access to ‘omic and phenotypic data. The company provides an environment in which genomic and clinical information can be analyzed to, for instance, identify candidates in a disease cohort with particular mutations and select appropriate treatments for patients (BI 6/29/2012).

"We recognize [that] that really requires the careful scrutiny of what's known in the public domain, what's available in the literature," Quackenbush told BioInform this week. "This is really the work that Thomson Reuters has excelled at doing. They've been in a fantastic position to comb through information in the public domain."

Under the terms of the agreement, GenoSpace will be able to cull information about genes and gene variants from Thomson Reuters' repositories and connect this information to genomic variation data and clinical information associated with disease, he explained.

Specifically, GenoSpace will use application programming interfaces provided by Thomson Reuters to access biological content from its GeneGo business and drug information from its Cortellis web service, Joe Donahue, Thomson Reuters' senior vice president for global sales in the life sciences, told BioInform.

Thomson Reuters acquired GeneGo, a pathway analysis informatics firm, in late 2010 (BI 12/3/2010). Last March, the company launched four APIs for its Cortellis platform to allow researchers combine information from its commercial drug development databases with their own internal data as well as information from public sources (BI 3/2/2012).

Initially, GenoSpace will focus on curating and annotating cancer variants but will eventually expand the effort to include other diseases, Quackenbush said.

It plans to make this added information available to customers soon, starting with an undisclosed disease foundation that it is currently working with as well as through some "strategic partnerships" that are being explored, he said.

Being a part of Thomson Reuters' Partner Ecosystem offers a "big opportunity to take all the data that they have been amassing and the information that we've been pulling together from a variety of different sources and to put it together in a way that we hope really drives personalized medicine," Quackenbush said.

But there is a benefit to Thomson Reuters as well. "This starts to expose us" beyond the traditional academic, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology markets, Donahue said. "We believe in the vision of personalized medicine and this gets our content in front of clinicians and doctors."

These new users will have to pay for licenses to access Thomson Reuters' content, in addition to the cost of accessing GenoSpace's cloud, Donahue said. That the firm is still working out pricing details and plans to make this information available by the end of the year, he added.

For its part, GenoSpace has adapted a transactional pricing model that varies depending on the specific needs of the customer in question (BI 6/29/2012).

Since the company's core focus is on cloud-based storage and analysis, the added information won't result in any changes to the platform or the way information is offered, Quackenbush said.

Thomson Reuters launched its partner ecosystem earlier this year to provide a means through which third-party developers could build applications that provide access to life science data in its Cortellis platform (BI 4/27/2012).

Besides GenoSpace, Accelrys, IDBS, Entagen, Inova, and Simbiosys have also inked partnership agreements with Thomson Reuters.

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