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GE ropes in Texas genomics company
May 2012
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author

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CHALFONT ST GILES, England—In early April, GE Healthcare, a GE-owned company, completed its acquisition of Houston, Texas-based SeqWright Inc., a provider of nucleic acid sequencing and other genomic services, now set to become part of GE Healthcare's Clarient business unit, which is focused on developing novel, proprietary diagnostic markers and tests for the profiling of breast, lung and colon cancers, melanoma and blood-based cancers. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.  
 
Part of the reason for the acquisition was to add complementary genomics capabilities to Clarient, a player in the fast-growing molecular diagnostics sector, as well as to provide a platform for Clarient to expand its clinical diagnostic offerings to include next-generation sequencing.  
 
"Sequencing, including next-generation sequencing, is a critical technology for GE's medical diagnostics business. The acquisition of a laboratory like SeqWright, which has long-standing expertise in the field as well as an established customer base, allows us immediate entry into this space and is an ideal complement to Clarient's existing PCR and IHC testing in support of pharmaceutical and in-vitro diagnostic studies," Carrie Eglinton-Manner, CEO of Clarient, tells ddn, adding that negotiations with SeqWright began nearly a year ago, in mid-2011.  
 
"Understanding how genetic variation at the molecular level impacts disease is critical in the continued discovery and development of new and more effective therapies, and increasingly in the management of patient care through the use of more precise diagnostic tests," said Pascale Witz, president and CEO of GE Healthcare's Medical Diagnostics business, in the news release about the acquisition.  
 
Eglinton-Manner notes that sequencing technology, including next-generation systems, has matured to a point where it makes good sense to start incorporating the platform technology on a more routine basis when conducting biomarker research and thinking about clinical practice.
 
"The scalability and cost of the technology has also stabilized within the last couple of years to a point where it can be incorporated into a research and diagnostic workflow," she says. "Furthermore, our customers' understanding of the technology and its value has reached a point where we are seeing more large-scale adoption taking place, and consideration of routine use has occurred."  
 
Given those technology and market changes and SeqWright's strengths, the acquisition "made sense now," Eglinton-Manner adds.  
 
"As a CLIA-certified service provider, we are in a position to capitalize on the growing role next- and third -generation DNA sequencing technologies will play in clinical diagnostics," said Fei Lu, president and CEO of SeqWright, in the official statement about the deal. "This partnership will put us in a position to apply the power of new direct detection technologies to clinical and companion diagnostics, potentially revolutionizing the way healthcare decisions are made."  
 
In addition, GE Healthcare notes, SeqWright has "an extensive history" of projects that focus on clinical trial and regulatory support for companion diagnostic submissions. Although SeqWright and GE Healthcare had never worked together directly before now, SeqWright and GE have worked on sponsor-related projects where Clarient was conducting non-sequencing-based testing on samples and SeqWright was doing the sequencing, Eglinton-Manner says, noting that "This allowed us to experience the brand recognition as well as the quality of work provided by SeqWright."
 
GE and Clarient plan to retain the existing leadership team at SeqWright and the SeqWright employees will remain in Houston to serve as part of Clarient's Houston-based sequencing laboratory.  
 
"The acquisition of SeqWright by GE Healthcare is about growth," Eglinton-Manner says. "It is an acquisition of a business that truly adds new competence and new technologies. GE Healthcare values the employees that will be joining the company as part of this acquisition. The expertise and knowledge of SeqWright's employees will be key in the continuing growth of the business." 


 
GE Healthcare, Dyax ink oncology licensing deal  
 
CHALFONT ST GILES, England—GE Healthcare also announced last month, along with Dyax Corp., a licensing agreement for the development and commercialization of peptides binding to c-Met, which provides upfront, milestone and royalty payments to Dyax.
 
Research of potential diagnostic applications and use as a patient selection biomarker in oncology will be explored by GE Healthcare in collaboration with academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies. The license includes application of the peptides in positron emission tomography (PET), single proton emission computed tomography (SPECT) and optical imaging.  
 
"Growth factor receptors such as c-Met are promising therapeutic targets that could be a critical factor in the development of colorectal, lung and liver oncology drugs," said Marivi Mendizabal, head of research at GE Healthcare Medical Diagnostics, in a statement. "As in-vivo imaging technologies become increasingly important in oncology drug development, our vision is that we will be able to rapidly develop new targeted molecular diagnostics—not just for our own clinical portfolio, but as 'companion' diagnostic offerings for our strategic biopharmaceutical partnerships."
 
"This agreement validates the strength of Dyax's core phage display library technology to support GE Healthcare's work to aid the development of cutting-edge treatment options for patients," added Gustav Christensen, president and CEO of Dyax. "With 18 Dyax-derived antibody or peptide programs currently in human clinical trials, we continue to demonstrate the utility of Dyax's proven and highly successful engine to power both therapeutic and diagnostic development."
 
Code: E051213

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