NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A year-old partnership between laboratory software developer Sunquest Information Systems and Partners Healthcare around the GeneInsight clinical genome interpretation and reporting software has begun yielding benefits including combined solutions for pathology laboratories and new capabilities for the software, representatives from both organizations told GenomeWeb recently.
Last September, Sunquest and Partners, an integrated healthcare system founded by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, announced partnering collaboration to provide genetic testing workflow capabilities to clinical geneticists and pathologists with an eye towards improving their genomic data interpretation efforts and enabling knowledge sharing across institutions.
As part of its agreement with Partners, Sunquest made an equity investment and became a minority shareholder in GeneInsight, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Partners. The exact amount of the investment hasn't been disclosed.
Historically, Sunquest has sold laboratory information management systems globally to academic medical centers, integrated delivery networks, independent hospitals, and reference laboratories, offering solutions that support clinical pathology and anatomic pathology testing.
However, given the growing interest in precision medicine and the push to make genomic technologies part of routine patient care, Sunquest is now expanding its product roster to provide relevant solutions that will help clients use genetic and molecular tests to, for example, identify at-risk patient populations early on and enable clinicians to take preventative measures to improve health and curtail disease, Matthew Hawkins, Sunquest's president told GenomeWeb.
Sunquest's decision to invest in GeneInsight was based in part on an existing partnership it had with Partners around other products but also because GeneInsight has been tested and used in the CLIA-lab setting for several years, Chris Callahan, Sunquest's vice president of diagnostic solutions, told GenomeWeb. Other systems that Sunquest looked into were either newer products that hadn't been tested as thoroughly or had more of a research orientation, he said. With clinical application as the goal, it was important to employ a solution that was known to play well within the clinical environment.
A partnership also made the most sense because Sunquest could benefit from the input of researchers with deep expertise in the genetics space, Callahan noted, and it also meant being able to bring a complete solution to market in a much shorter timeframe that an internal development effort would have allowed for.
And the benefits flow both ways. The partnership with Sunquest has helped broaden the pool of labs that have access to GeneInsight and that could result in improved variant interpretations and opportunities for expansion, Sandy Aronson, executive director of IT at Partners Healthcare, told GenomeWeb. Sunquest already has an "enormous" number of laboratories using its products, he noted. Giving those labs access to GeneInsight and getting them share and contribute information via VariantWire — networking infrastructure within GeneInsight that lets labs transfer genetic test results and data — will help clinicians improve on existing clinical variant interpretations and ultimately provide better care for their patients.
Moreover, "I think that there are real opportunities to start looking at how genetic data and other forms of data including pathology data can be combined in order to provide more robust interpretations than either one of those pieces of data can provide on their own," Aronson said. "Sunquest has really deep expertise in pathology lab systems and so looking at integrations that could exist between our systems and theirs to really drive forward in that area is also exciting."
Sunquest's investment in GeneInsight allowed the company to incorporate the software into its existing platform and to market and distribute the combined product to customers. Specifically, Sunquest has integrated GeneInsight with its anatomic pathology software product, which includes tools for managing specimens, including sample and material tracking; tools for generating data for quality assurance, management, and regulatory reports; as well as integrations with imaging infrastructure. With the combined offering, pathologists can now include results from genetic tests in the reports that they provide to clinicians, a capability that customers who've used it so far have responded well to, according to Callahan.
In addition to integrating GeneInsight with its pathology offering, Sunquest also helped develop new capabilities for GeneInsight — specifically, a filtration algorithm that lets users pare down long lists of variants gleaned from whole-genome and whole-exome sequencing tests and home in those that are clinically relevant to the case in question, Callahan said. This particular functionality will be available within GeneInsight sometime in the next month, he said. Other ongoing development activities include adding tools and content to explore somatic mutations in cancer testing, Callahan said. He declined to go into more details about these efforts.
"We see a lot of demand for these solutions building amongst our clients," Hawkins said. "As more and more clients begin to need and adopt genetic testing platform[s], we think that there will be increased market demand for [workflows for] not just inherited and not just somatic but the combination of both [and] we are building GeneInsight to be able to elegantly accommodate both."