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Spin-Off Licenses Genomic Technology from Wash. University

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30 June 2014. PierianDx, a new company formed by medical faculty and practitioners at Washington University in St. Louis, licensed genomic technology from the university to commercialize diagnostic tools for personalized medicine. Financial details of the licensing deal were not disclosed.

The start-up company plans to offer the technology in a system developed internally by Washington University’s medical labs for sequencing a patient’s DNA to determine an individualized course of treatment. The system, called the Clinical Genomicist Workstation, has been in use by Washington University since 2011.

The system, says PierianDx, combines high-throughput genomic sequencing with analytic software, access to bioinformatic databases, and integration with a patient’s electronic medical records. High-throughput sequencing uncovers the precise order of nucleotides, or organic molecules in DNA that make up an individual’s genome. This sequence of nucleotides can identify genes and mutations causing disease.

Advances in genomic research, along with access to greater computer power, are making sequencing of entire genomes less expensive, and thus more widely available for research and diagnostics. National Human Genome Research Institute estimates, as of January 2014, sequencing a single human genome costs about $4,000. Three years earlier, that cost was estimated $21,000, and three years before that about $3,000,000.

PierianDx aims to make the genomic workstation available to clinical labs seeking an in-house sequencing capability, rather than relying on an outside service. The system uses software to call on data in online genomic databases for review by the patient’s physician. The company says the system uses industry standard HL7 message connections, to enable a patient’s electronic health record to access the report.

PierianDx was founded by geneticists and medical practitioners from Washington University, including Rakesh Nagarajan, professor of pathology and genetics, and Catherine Cottrell, medical director of genomics and pathology services. Nagarajan is the company’s chief biomedical informatics officer, and Cottrell serves as a medical advisor to the company.

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