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MedGenome Raises $4M to Improve Informatics for Oncology, Grow Business in India, Elsewhere

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – MedGenome has raised $4 million from private investors to continue building its bioinformatics infrastructure, expand its facilities in India and abroad, increase its sales force, and execute related capital expenditures.

On the informatics front in particular, Dmitri Mehlhorn, a MedGenome investor and board member, told BioInform that the company will collaborate with hospitals in India to gather and incorporate de-identified information from cancer patients in India into Oncogenic Mutation Database or OncoMD, the company's proprietary curated database of 1.2 million cancer mutations and annotations.

The data in OncoMD — searchable by disease or gene name — is gathered from peer-reviewed literature and data repositories such as the Catalogue of Somatic Mutations in Cancer. Accessing and analyzing this population-level information, Mehlhorn said, could help lead to a better understanding of the genetic mechanisms of various cancer types.

"India has over 645 recognized tribes and there [are] genetic studies … that show that these tribes are very genetically homogenous within the tribes and heterogeneous across tribes." As such, collecting and analyzing data from individuals from these tribes could be an "incredibly powerful tool for figuring out within each sub-population why certain mutations are causing cancer," he said. It's also one of the features that will set MedGenome's offering apart from competitors since no other company "is capturing the value out of India in the way that we are doing," he added.

MedGenome officially launched in 2012 as a spinoff of Indian sequencing services provider SciGenome. As reported by BioInform's sister publication In Sequence, SciGenome launched MedGenome as a separate company to focus on servicing clinical customers offering whole genome and exome sequencing, mitochondrial genome sequencing, and targeted panels. Currently it has research collaborations with Tata Memorial Hospital, KIMS Hospital, Mohan's Diabetes Center, the Institute of Bioinformatics at Bangalore, and Narayana Nethralaya hospital.

According to its website, MedGenome, which operates primarily in India, offers tests for BRCA gene mutations, and targeted disease panels for hereditary cancer, cancer somatic mutations, cardiac conditions, ophthalamic and neuromuscular diseases, deafness, and autism. It also provides single-gene tests for cancer, cardiac disease, pediatric and prenatal disorders, and pharmacogenomics purposes.

For research customers, pricing for the company's services is negotiable, Mehlhorn said. Access to the database and software tends to be subscription-based with pricing determined based on the number of users and the size of the institution; additional services are available for an extra cost. Depending on the number of samples and deliverables, customers in research settings who want both sequencing and analysis can expect to get their results in 10 to 12 weeks on average. The turnaround for just sequencing services is six to eight weeks; while the turnaround time for clients who just want their data analyzed varies from two to 10 weeks depending on the nature of the analysis required and the number of samples in question. Meanwhile, for hospitals, the company offers standardized pricing — the exact amount is not disclosed.

The informatics software and database that MedGenome's researchers use to analyze customers' data were initially developed and used by SciGenome. In addition to OncoMD, MedGenome has a bespoke pipeline made up of proprietary and open source software including a laboratory information management system for integrated tracking, analysis, and reporting; and VariMat, a tool for calling variants from raw sequence.

Mahesh Pratapneni, CEO of Emerge Ventures, a MedGenome board member, and one of the Series A investors, told BioInform that MedGenome plans to package and start selling its bioinformatics pipeline as a standalone product towards the end of the year. He said they'll likely start by providing the bioinformatics as a service and then make the software available to customers who want to do their own analysis next year.

The nature of the final offering will depend to some extent on what MedGenome's customers want, Mehlhorn added. He said the company is currently discussing the product with potential clients in pharmaceutical and academic institutions to figure out the most appropriate means of making MedGenome's informatics capabilities available, whether that will be a standardized database and software offering or tailored solutions depending on the project — this decision will also affect the company's price point.

In addition to Mehlhorn and Pratapneni, other investors in MedGenome are Papillon Capital's Kartik Kumaramangalam; Ambiga Dhiraj, co-founder of MuSigma; Tim McLaughlin, CEO of Siteworx; and Dan Peterson, the former CEO of CASHNet.

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