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Cypher Genomics’ Analytics Tech Gains Some Cred in Illumina Deal

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a drug trial against the Wellderly database, Cypher says it can identify genetic disparities in a patient group far more accurately.

In this way, Cypher says its technology can resolve the “signal-to-noise” problem that makes it difficult for researchers to find important biomarkers in small sample sizes of a few hundred patients or less, the size typically selected for early-stage drug development. With the approach that Cypher is taking, identifying key genetic markers becomes more of a pattern-recognition problem—albeit one that requires comparing enormous sets of genomic data, with each set involving billions of DNA base pairs.

So Cypher’s aspirations to become the Google of bioinformatics may not be too far-fetched, after all.

In a statement today, Van Zeeland says, Cypher’s biomarker discover service “has a proven track record of success with pharmaceutical companies to discover the genetic bases of response to drug therapy.”

In addition to identifying the variant genes responsible for disease, Cypher says it can use its computational analytics to identify additional genetic markers that correlate with patients who respond to a particular drug therapy.

Identifying the variant genes responsible for disease, and correlating the genes that correspond with different drug therapies represents the basis of precision medicine. But it is a burgeoning field of R&D, and Cypher Genomics hardly has the field to itself. The list of other startups working to commercialize their own technologies for using genomic data include Knome, SolveBio, Appistry, Silicon Valley Biosystems, Ingenuity, DNAnexus, and Curoverse.

Henry "Hank" Nordhoff

Henry “Hank” Nordhoff

In a separate statement, Cypher said that Gen-Probe founder and CEO Henry “Hank” Nordhoff recently joined the company’s board as executive chairman. The company also named Genentech co-founder Herb Boyer and former FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach as directors.

Simpson emphasized that Nordhoff, Boyer, and von Eschenbach bring deep experience in biomedical diagnostics, biotechnology, and regulatory matters to Cypher’s already-prominent leadership.

“These folks wouldn’t be interested in [Cypher] if they didn’t think there wasn’t a big business to be developed here,” Simpson said.

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  • Hisham ElDai

    This sounds to be an exciting thrust into the field. Big Data is becoming increasingly relevant to bioinformatics. Having integrated sequencing technology with computational approaches will perhaps streamline the process of analysis. However for multi dimensional data we’re yet to see any breakthroughs that present excellent and scalable algorithmic solutions that tackle problems outside the theoretical framework.