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Repositive to Launch Personalized Cancer Model Matching Service


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Bioinformatics firm Repositive said this week that it plans to launch a so-called Personal Shopper service to help biopharmaceutical companies find cancer models that best meet the criteria for their oncology research projects.

The planned program, which will kick off in October, is part of an ongoing beta test of the company's Cancer Models platform, a new product that has the dual purpose of providing biopharma with a searchable view of existing cancer models and contract research organizations with a platform for showcasing their model inventory.

Fiona Nielsen, founder and CEO of Cambridge, UK-based Repositive, said that the company will charge an undisclosed hourly consulting fee to help customers find the right models for their projects as well as the right providers. Eventually customers will be able to access the platform and run these searches themselves, but that functionality won't be available until next year.

This announcement comes on the heels of a recently concluded 12-month pilot project that demonstrated that how Repositive's platform works to connect oncology researchers to relevant cancer models. Founded in 2014, Repositive acts as an intermediary between data providers and researchers. The company sources and indexes datasets using metadata from developers of public, semi-public, and proprietary data repositories. Repositive does not host data internally but rather connects customers to the repositories where the information is located. Its platform offers tools for researchers to filter through various data options and identify those that are most relevant for their drug-discovery projects.

The pilot project grew out of a 2016 collaboration between Repositive and AstraZeneca to provide pharmaceutical and drug discovery companies with access to patient-derived xenographs (PDX) and associated molecular data. Nielsen said at the time that the companies were seeking additional industry and academic partners who would be willing to make their PDX resources accessible via the Repositive platform.

Nielsen said this week that they were able to convince several additional partners to participate in the Cancer Models pilot. Besides AstraZeneca, inaugural members of the so-called PDX consortium included Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck Group, Xentech, Xenopat, and Horizon Discovery. In total, 18 companies have signed up to make their PDX models accessible via Cancer Models.

"The problem they have is that data access becomes the bottleneck for choosing the right cancer model," Nielsen said. Different preclinical CROs have developed different types of models from different types of tumors and grown in in vivo or ex vivo model systems.

"But I want to know which of these models fit the particular characteristics I want to test whether that’s [in terms of] the tumor tissue type or … the molecular makeup of the tumor," she said. And that’s the benefit of Repositive's technology. "We already know how to make data searchable and indexable across these many different data sources." All clients have to do is describe their preclinical model needs in as much detail as they want.

Their pilot kicked off in March 2017 and ran for about a year, and the partners presented results at the 2018 American Association for Cancer Research conference this past spring. The company also changed the product's name from the PDX Directory to Cancer Models and expanded the scope of the resource to include cancer cell line-derived xenografts, syngeneic and humanized mouse models, 3D in vitro systems and other translational cancer models that support immuno-oncology and combination therapies.

Since the presentation, there has been "a lot of demand" from both biopharma companies interested in accessing the models and CROs wanting the visibility for their models, Nielsen claimed. The Personal Shopper program is a way for the company to start to satisfy these demands as it continues platform development, she added.

"We are providing the service for free for a limited period of time to raise our profile among all the different biopharma companies in oncology," Nielsen said. The service will be free from October through December of this year. Repositive is currently in the process of indexing and adding the new inventory from several new CRO partners to its platform, Nielsen said, so for now customers don’t have direct access to the Cancer Models. Starting next year, customers will be able to create accounts and search for models themselves. The list price for single-user access starts at £6,000 (about $7,800) for an annual subscription with discounts for larger accounts.

Repositive will continue to offer the Personal Shopper service moving forward. The fees that they pay for the service will count as a discount towards the cost of a subscription for the Cancer Models platform. Based on partnerships it has in its network currently, Repositive expects to have more than 3,000 cancer models accessible via its platform by the end of the year.

To support its plans, the company has hired several business development, technical, and customer support staff bringing its total headcount to 38 employees. This translates to 50 percent growth in the past 12 months. The list of new hires includes Ave Wrigley, who will serve as Repositive's new chief technology officer; Robert Thong, the company's new chief business officer; and Julian Coe, Repositive's chief finance and operating officer, who are all expected to play key roles in Repositive’s next stage of development.

According to Repositive, Wrigley will help focus on scaling up the company's service delivery and on maximizing the benefits of its platforms for researchers and data providers. For his part, Thong will play a vital role in building up Repositive's community; and Coe will focus on securing needed funding to scale the company's operations and support platform development.

"Because we are moving into this growth phase where there is a lot of development happening, [and] we are servicing more and more partners on our platform, we are looking to raise another round of funding," Nielsen said. In 2016, the company received about $721,000 in seed funding. The year before that Repositive raised $446,000. Then in 2017, Repositive closed a Series A funding round during which it raised £2.5 million (about $3.1 million) from investors such as Ananda Social Venture Fund and Force Over Mass Capital. Nielsen said that the company expects to raise around £10 million (about $13 million) for this next phase of development.

Repositive's first product, the so-called Discover platform which launched in 2016, provides free access to publicly available genomic data that the company has sourced and indexed. Currently, Discover lets users explore more than 1 million human genome datasets from more than 50 sources. Some information is grouped into so-called specialized data collections focused on specific diseases or topics. One such collection, focused on autism, provides access to more than 6,500 datasets from nine different data sources including the Sequence Read Archive. This includes whole exome sequence from patients as well as datasets describing the role of microRNAs and gut microbiota in autism. Other collections focus on methylation, gene expression, and microbiome datasets, breast cancer data gleaned from more than 11,000 samples, and data from personal genome projects in the US, UK, and Austria.

Last year, Repositive was tapped to provide its metadata search and indexing technology to the National Institutes of Health Data Commons as part of the consortium's pilot phase. Their portion of the pilot, called FAIR4CURES, aims to build a full-stack solution that unifies data from a variety of research environments into a single ecosystem. It is led by Seven Bridges Genomics, which is contributing its cloud platform for genome analysis and workflow management to the initiative. Other partners include the Boston Veteran Affairs Research Institute which is providing expertise in research data governance, and Elsevier which is contributing its technology for publishing data objects with globally unique identifiers.