Life Tech genome software aids cancer-drug hunters in pharma

As cancer drug discovery relies more on massive data sets, Life Technologies ($LIFE) has served up a pair of new genomics software tools to home in on the genetic underpinning of tumors. And both software products use tech from the genomics powerhouse's buyout of cancer bioinformatics player Compendia Bioscience in October.

By understanding misfit genes in cancer, pharma researchers have a shot at designing drugs to toggle the targets. Yet first scientists face the challenge of sorting through which variants and mutations are responsible for driving tumors. Enter Life Technologies, which has expanded from providing machines to decode DNA to advancing computational tools to understand specific pieces of the code, especially in cancer.

Pulled directly from the Compendia buyout, Oncomine Gene Browser is Life Tech's web-based analytics tool for cancer researchers to investigate individual genes from cancer patients. The Ion Reporter Oncomine Workflow, the second new product, combines the Compendia analytics tool with Ion Reporter to aid researchers in understanding data from the next-gen sequencer called the Ion Torrent from Life Tech, according to the company.

"This is a major advance because cancer sequencing experiments often yield hundreds of variants, among which only a small fraction are true cancer driver mutations," said Dan Rhodes, head of Medical Science Informatics for Life Technologies, in a statement. "Previously researchers were faced with cumbersome literature searches or complex bioinformatics approaches to discern drivers from passenger mutations."

Prior to joining Life Tech, Rhodes co-founded and served as CEO of Compendia, a University of Michigan spinoff that features the largest database on mutation profiles, gene expression data and cellular biomarkers from 71,000 cancer patients.

If genomics companies want to pick on disease fields to specialize in, cancer or oncology presents one of the juiciest opportunities in the pharma business. In addition to ongoing sequencing efforts in oncology, American biopharma groups had 981 drugs and vaccines in development to treat cancer in 2012, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America or PhRMA.

- see Life Tech's release
- and Bio-IT World's article