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Adding to the family tree
BioServe, DNAPrint Genomics add ancestry data to biological samples
By Lisa Espenschade
BELTSVILLE, Md.—A strategic alliance between BioServe and DNAPrint Genomics Inc., will use DNAPrint's technology to analyze and generate genetic ancestry data for almost 600,000 human biological samples in BioServe's Global Repository.
Kevin Krenitsky, CEO of BioServe, hopes the collaboration will be long-lasting. "I think we're pretty convinced that the era of genetics and genomics is really just starting to come into its own," he says. "In many ways, both DNAPrint and BioServe, particularly with the acquisition of Genomics Collaborative, are a little ahead of their time."
This spring, BioServe ac-quired Genomics Collaborative and its Global Repository—DNA tissue and serum samples along with clinical and demographic data from the samples' 140,000 donors on four continents—from SeraCare Life Sciences Inc. This summer, BioServe moved into a new office with labs and announced a colorectal cancer diagnostic test developed with Phenomenome, which used samples from the Global Repository.
BioServe and DNAPrint will both benefit from joint products arising from the collaboration, says Krenitsky. Adding ancestry data to the Global Repository is of particular interest to biopharmaceutical preclinical and epidemiology researchers, he says. "Ancestry tagging is extremely appealing to them."
Richard Gabriel, DNAPrint's CEO and president, says researchers should be interested: previous DNA testing for ancestry looked at mother-based mitochondrial DNA or father-based Y chromosomes, ignoring other chromosomes. "It's not a good idea to base your research on mitochondrial or Y chromosome markers because they're not specific to the individual," he says.
Those data might work in large population studies, but Gabriel says DNAPrint goes much further. "What we do is we look across the rest of the chromosomes, so it's an autosomal test." DNAPrint conducts blind and double-blind studies to independently validate markers, confirming them across multiple samples and eliminating any that don't perform well. DNAPrint's AncestrybyDNA testing identifies individuals as parts of major global groupings, says Gabriel.
Both companies hope the Global Repository will help develop tailored treatments for more personalized medicines. "We're looking for those markers that are independent of the effects of ethnicity," says Krenitsky, adding later, "the real goal is to find those markers that are agnostic to the ethnicity of the patient, they work across the spectrum of humanity… that's a really exciting thing."
With gene-based ethnic differences underlying disease states like hypertension and diabetes as well as drug side effects, Gabriel hopes ancestry data will help companies design drugs that eliminate patients who might experience adverse reactions. DNAPrint's technology, he says, is "the first of its kind, so we're pretty excited about it. We just need orders. It's as simple as that. The technology is done." He hopes standardized genetic ancestry information will become a routine part of patient data accompanying samples.
Krenitsky agrees. "When you have the ability to stratify the ethnicity of these patients so perfectly like we now can, it really simply furthers our ability to effectively develop and validate the next generation of molecular diagnostics, which is absolutely a field that's going crazy."
Krenitsky sees tremendous opportunities for offering customized data sets, and Gabriel believes researchers with ancestry data can allow actual research results to direct their work. That's DNAPrint's approach, too, says Gabriel. "We let the science lead us rather than us trying to lead the science."