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Sutter Health, UPMC, and DNAnexus Initiate Collaboration to Improve Personalized Treatments for People with Multiple Sclerosis

DNAnexus, and the not-for-profit Sutter Health network announced the first large-scale clinico-genomic multiple sclerosis (MS) research study conducted by a leading healthcare system.

As part of the collaboration, scientists at the Sutter Health Center for Precision Medicine will input de-identified clinico-genomic datasets from more than 3,000 patients to the DNAnexus Apollo Platform, enabling rapid analysis, visualization, and collaboration within a secure environment that complies with rigorous patient confidentiality requirements. The Genome Center at UPMC, a leading non-profit health system based in Pittsburgh, will generate clinical-grade genomic data from samples contributed by the program’s participants.

Beginning in May 2019, researchers at Sutter will enroll more than 500 MS patients in the first phase of the new study, which is designed to collect electronic health record (EHR) data, patient-reported outcomes, imaging data, and blood samples in addition to whole exome sequencing (WES) performed by UPMC. DNAnexus bioinformaticians will process WES data through analysis pipelines and link the resulting genetic data with extensive clinical data on the DNAnexus Apollo Platform. Sutter Health clinicians, researchers, and approved collaborators will use the platform to assess patients’ clinical and genomic features that correlate with MS subtypes, disability progression, staging, symptoms, MRI changes, and differential response to disease-modifying therapies (DMTs).

“Datasets generated in a real-world setting will propel Sutter Health to the forefront of MS research worldwide,” says Gregory Tranah, PhD, Director of the Center for Precision Medicine at Sutter Health. “Collaborating with DNAnexus allows access to cutting-edge bioinformatics tools to better understand our clinically meaningful ‘big data.’ This is an important step to advance precision medicine efforts across Sutter and, ultimately, to improve treatments for people with MS in our community and the millions of people affected with the disease worldwide.”

“The UPMC Genome Center was created to support ground-breaking initiatives like this that strive to transform patient care. Our fully automated, CLIA/CAP-certified center provides the environment to generate high-quality genomic data for Sutter Health and its patients,” said Annerose Berndt, PhD, Vice President of Clinical Genomics and Director of the UPMC Genome Center.

MS is a potentially disabling immunologic disease that affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide, including more than 450,000 people in the U.S., where approximately 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. 1 Despite new research, the specific immunologic cause remains unknown and the disease has no cure. Most people who develop MS manage a relapsing-remitting course of the illness with DMTs to slow disease progression.

“With its diverse patient population and powerful EHR data on long-term MS patients, the team at Sutter Health is poised to lead this next era of precision medicine for MS,” said Richard Daly, Chief Executive Officer of DNAnexus. “We are looking forward to working with Sutter and UPMC on this MS study and other real-world data projects for additional complex disorders in the future.”

With this study, DNAnexus launches its new Clinico-Genomic Data Solution, a program that addresses the demand for high-quality, longitudinal, disease-specific datasets by establishing a network of healthcare partners dedicated to improving screening, diagnosis, and treatment pathways for complex diseases. The network facilitates an ongoing data stream hosted on the DNAnexus Apollo Platform to support precision health initiatives and drug discovery programs at leading cancer centers, academic institutions, healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical companies.