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WuXi PharmaTech Invests $15M in DNAnexus, Signs Cloud Infrastructure Agreement

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BOSTON – WuXi PharmaTech, a provider of laboratory and manufacturing services for biopharmaceutical and medical device customers, said this week that it is investing $15 million in DNAnexus. In addition, WuXi NextCode Genomics, its wholly-owned subsidiary, is partnering with the company to provide cloud infrastructure and tools for genomic data management and analysis to researchers in China and other countries.

Under the terms of the agreement, WuXi NextCode's proprietary database infrastructure as well as its clinical and research interfaces will be available on DNAnexus cloud. The combined platform will offer tools for processing, analyzing, storing, and interpreting sequence data as well as enable collaborations between researchers within and outside organizations.

WuXi NextCode COO Hannes Smarason told GenomeWeb that the partners are currently working on integrating their respective platforms and that the combined offering should be on the market within a few weeks. That first product will include access to the entire NextCode platform including its GOR database and NextCode Exchange, the company's genomic data analysis and collaboration service, on the cloud along with bioinformatics tools and analytical capabilities developed by DNAnexus.

Later this year, the companies will roll out targeted offerings based on the combined platform that will be tailored to customers in the pharmaceutical and diagnostic markets, Smarason said. One of these will bundle sequencing services, data storage, and analytics into a single product for pharma companies. A second product will offer similar capabilities to customers in the diagnostics market, Smarason said. With this product, hospitals or academic laboratories will have access to CLIA-certified sequencing services and will also be able to use the cloud platform to run bespoke algorithms and pipelines on their data, and generate and return reports to clients.

Pricing for access to the combined products will be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to Smarason.   

Smarason described the partnership with DNAnexus as the logical next step for NextCode following its $65 million acquisition by WuXi PharmaTech earlier this year. Merging their respective portfolios meant that the companies could now offer customers' next-generation sequencing and analysis capabilities, Smarason said.

But what was still lacking, he noted, was a secure cloud-based infrastructure that could support the data analysis and storage needs of customers, particularly those in the Chinese market, which currently has about 40 percent of the world's sequencing capacity and is growing. Rather than try to develop a platform from scratch, it made more sense to partner with a firm that already had deep expertise in the space and whose platform came equipped with tools and support specific to the genomics arena, he said.

Smarason said that DNAnexus has already implemented many of the sophisticated security layers that are necessary to work in today’s medical environment including HIPAA compliance. "We decided it would be more advantageous to partner with somebody who'd already done some of the heavy lifting and already had significant traction with a lot of global customers."

The partnership also takes advantage of complementary products that span the analysis spectrum from processing sequence as it comes off instruments through interpretation and clinical decision support.   

Also, in seeking a partner, Smarason said it was important to work with a firm that was interested in supporting clients in the Chinese market. DNAnexus currently has customers in its portfolio, particularly pharmaceutical customers, who are seeking to run projects that make use of genomic data generated within China, where local regulatory requirements prohibit the movement of genetic information out of the country, he said. The agreement with DNAnexus makes it possible for WuXi NextCode to offer more localized compute power and tools for analyzing data that will be in keeping with regulatory requirements.

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