Sarah Cannon, the cancer institute of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), has agreed to buy precision medicine software company Genospace in a pioneering deal that will allow for a more effective use of molecular profiling data to match cancer patients to clinical trials.
Financial terms of the agreement, which is expected to close in the first quarter of this year, were not disclosed. Led by Genospace CEO Mick Correll, the company will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sarah Cannon. The company will remain based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The merger supports Sarah Cannon’s strategic goal of advancing personalized medicine across its cancer programs as recent advances in the field have begun to transform cancer clinical care and drug development. Geospace’s technology platform collects disparate data from genomic and other biomedical sources and makes it usable by researchers and oncologists when considering individual treatment options based on the unique makeup of a patient’s cancer, how to design and operationalize clinical trials or what types of research are needed in the future.
“As genomic information advances, it is crucial that oncologists and researchers have rapid access to an efficient and nimble technology solution for interpreting molecular data and guiding clinical decision making,” said Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, M.D., president of Clinical Operations and chief medical officer at Sarah Cannon. “Genospace’s leadership in this field will help us to transform the way we gather and analyze genomic information, resulting in better identification of effective treatment options for our patients.”
Sarah Cannon’s decision to buy Genospace rather than build its own system internally or partner with a technology company is unique among organizations and academic institutions currently building capabilities to support the development of personalized medicine. The strategy underscores how companies have begun to adopt innovative models to meet challenges in today’s changing healthcare delivery and drug development climate.
“I am never surprised at any combination of companies involved in various aspects of drug research and development. Over time, I suspect we will continue to see more new types of relationships,” said Michael A. Martorelli, a director at Fairmount Partners.
Burris said Sarah Cannon considered other options, but ultimately decided to buy a best-in-class technology company that shared its focus on cancer and personalized medicine, while also understanding the challenges of molecular profiling and matching patients to clinical trials.
“It made sense to merge and bring Genospace into the organization to have them fully focused and aligned with what we, at Sarah Cannon, are trying to do from our goals,” said Burris. “We didn’t want to have a vendor relationship. We wanted the scientists at Genospace to work side by side with our clinicians and scientists at Sarah Cannon to come up with the best solutions, the best products and the best way to utilize this information.”
Similarly, in October, Sarah Cannon Research Institute, the research arm of HCA’s cancer institute, announced a collaboration with Foundation Medicine to gather results from the company’s comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) assays to personalize treatment options for patients in its U.S. cancer programs. Sarah Cannon also has partnerships with other companies in this space, both in the U.S. and U.K. Genospace’s technology will be used to help aggregate data from various sources, putting it in a format that can be searched and analyzed by researchers and physicians.
“The merger is another example of Sarah Cannon being on the leading edge of cancer treatment and research,” said Neal McCarthy, managing director of Fairmount Partners.
Genospace’s software platform will be integrated into Sarah Cannon’s network of oncology programs across the U.S. and U.K. Programs include the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, which conducts clinical research at community-based sites through a global network of more than 275 physicians, and its oncology-focused CRO called Sarah Cannon Development Innovations. In these settings, the genetic data technology can help identify the best patients for clinical trials and facilitate early go/no-go decisions in clinical development programs.
Many of the large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that sponsor clinical research at Sarah Cannon have already inquired about how the merger could enhance their use of genomic data in clinical development programs. The aggregation of next-generation sequencing (NGS) and clinical data, for example, can help researchers understand what sort of resistance profiles develop after patients receive therapies to better predict biomarkers.
“More closely marrying genotypic data and clinical information is valuable for pharma and biotech companies to understand not only where their drugs work, but where they don’t work and who might be the ideal patient for their therapy,” said Burris. “One of the solutions to the growing cost of pharmaceuticals, particularly for the cancer space, is trying to get the right therapy to the right patient at the right time. It almost sounds like a cliché. But if we could eliminate monies spent on therapies that don’t work because it’s not the appropriate patient, there would be a huge cost savings.”
Genospace’s platform also provides patient-facing portals and disease-specific communities to support and educate patients across disease stages.
The emerging partnerships and mergers developing between research organizations and technology companies that provide the ability to gather and analyze genomic data are widely seen to have the potential to reshape the drug development process and are expected to increase going forward.
“We have a patient-centric, physician-led approach, but you’ve got to be able to utilize all the data coming from the patient and their tumor to make the best decision. We see these types of mergers as a necessity. We would be remiss as a cancer institute if we didn’t think about the best investments and partnerships that allow us to utilize this vast amount of data that we have at our fingertips,” said Burris.
This article was reprinted from Volume 21, Issue 03, of CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »