Friday, June 19, 2015

Genomics England picks these smaller names to crunch UK100K Genomes Project data

The most stunning news is delivered in the opener of Nick Paul Taylor's report on FierceBiotechIT:
Genomics England has named the four companies it wants to work with on the interpretation of the first 8,000 genomes from its massive sequencing effort. The list of successful bidders is lacking some big-name applicants, notably Illumina which Genomics England asked not to tender for the contract.
Though it's shocking that Illumina's BaseSpace wasn't a contender, in reading Genomics England's news release there's no mention of Illumina being asked not to tender, rather they were simply not asked to tender, a much less damning conclusion than what's mentioned above implies, which is that Illumina's analyses were so bad that no one in the UK ever wanted to see them again.  Sadly, there was no mention of DNAnexus or Ingenuity either, but I suspect they were in the running as well.

But that's beside the point.  Starting in August, Omicia, NantHealth, WuXi NextCODE, and Congenica will each provide reports on 2,500 patients from within Genomics England's data centers.  Some of these shortlisted companies are not too surprising; for example Omicia is the primary licensor of the VAAST mutation analysis software (which is pretty good at analyzing family mutation patterns that I expect the UK100K genomes project contains a ton of), while Congenica is partnered with Genomics England to begin with, making them a natural fit.

WuXi NextCODE is a spinout of deCODE genetics (which was a hot company at one point) and has become an interesting arm of WuXi AppTec, a large Chinese CRO that's listed on the NYSE and has a $3B market cap. I'd like dig deeper into their business models in future posts.

However, the most enigmatic company of the set is NantHealth.  This company, led by Patrick Soon-Shiong, has been trying to make a huge splash into the genomics market, mostly by building systems for hospitals to crunch genomic big data and present treatment propositions for patients, according to Matthew Herper at Forbes.  This is the same Dr. Soon-Shiong that brought the world Abraxane, so he has credibility (which I admit was slightly reduced when I saw him holding a Circos plot on a BlackBerry Passport).  If you read other stories by Herper you get the sense that there's a good dose of hyperbole coming from Soon-Shiong and NantHealth, so how that translates into results with the UK 100K Genomes Project is up in the air.

We'll have to wait until next year when the four companies complete the pilot phase of the study, and hopefully one will be an obvious winner to crunch the rest of the data.