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GNS Healthcare's Partnership with Brigham and Women's Highlights Expanding Health Informatics Focus


By Uduak Grace Thomas

GNS Healthcare is partnering with Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital to develop models that predict possible adverse events for patients with congestive heart failure using information stored in their medical records.

In this project, Brigham and Women's Hospital will use GNS Healthcare's reverse engineering-forward simulation platform to create models based on data from electronic health records of patients in the Partners Healthcare System, the company said.

Specifically, the collaborators will focus on using information in patient records to predict possible adverse drug reactions for patients admitted for heart disease and to suggest interventions that could help clinicians preempt these events. GNS estimates that such an approach, if implemented nationally, could save the US medical system as much as $50 billion a year.

The partners plan to look for underlying pathways and relationships between drugs and health conditions that drive adverse events in these patients. They anticipate that if they can identify these connections, they can use them to reduce the impacts of these issues on patient health.

Financial details about the agreement were not disclosed.

The current arrangement provides the first evidence of GNS Healthcare's plans to move its platform into new healthcare-related markets outside of drug discovery and biotechnology following a company-wide restructuring last year, Colin Hill, the company's CEO, told BioInform.

GNS Healthcare came into existence last year following a decision by several founders of Gene Network Sciences to launch a new firm called Via Sciences that would serve as a holding company for its healthcare arm and other business, in a bid to move the REFS technology into new markets (BI 11/5/2010).

At the time of the restructuring, Hill told BioInform that in addition to using its REFS platform for drug discovery and biotechnology-based efforts, as GNS had done historically, GNS Healthcare was looking to broaden its focus to encompass the needs of the healthcare payor/provider space.

This expanded focus exposes GNS to "a greater area of the overall healthcare spectrum" and should ultimately help lower the healthcare price tag, Hill said this week.

Hill said that GNS Healthcare currently provides the bulk of Via Sciences' business, beating out fellow subsidiaries Fina Technologies and Dataspora, which peddle the REFS platform in the financial and consumer behavior markets, respectively.

Although there is a lot of "activity" in the healthcare informatics market, Hill said that GNS Healthcare's platform doesn’t have any direct competition in the space, although companies such as Humedica and Explorys "appear to be very strong at the data integration side of some of these problems."

While there are a number of entrenched players in the healthcare informatics market, "not many are really focused on ... data analytics and extracting cause-and-effect relationships from these multitude of data types ... in a hypothesis-free way at scale," he said.

This announcement marks GNS' second project with Brigham and Women's in recent years. Last December, the two signed an agreement under which the hospital would use the REFS platform to predict patients' response to asthma therapies in the hopes of finding better treatments for the disease (BI 12/17/2010).

This year, the company was tapped to create in silico simulations of drug interaction data generated by applying several well-known cancer treatments to the National Cancer Institute's NCI-60 cancer cell line panel (BI 1/28/2011), as well as to build computer models of non-small cell lung cancer based on datasets from imaging, genetics, pathology, and other sources (BI 7/15/2011).

GNS is also working with pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb to create inflammation disease models that incorporate genetic information, gene expression level, and specific blood markers from patients in a BMS clinical trial (BI 8/12/2011).

Currently, GNS Healthcare has 20 full time employees besides external contractors. It has also hired some senior executives, Hill said, but declined to provide more information. The firm is looking to expand its headcount and has openings in its technology and business development departments.

Hill also said that the company has added some extensions to its platform and developed a few new tools, some of which are being used in ongoing projects. He declined to provide further details at this time, however, stating that the company plans to make a formal announcement by the end of the year.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioInform? Contact the editor at uthomas [at] genomeweb [.] com