UPDATED: U.K. picks interpretation providers for 100K Genomes Project, asks Illumina not to tender

Genomics England Director of Bioinformatics Augusto Rendon

Genomics England has named the four companies it wants to work with on the interpretation of the first 8,000 genomes from its massive sequencing effort. The list of successful bidders is lacking some big-name applicants, notably Illumina ($ILMN) which Genomics England asked not to tender for the contract.

Congenica and Omicia are set to work on the first batch of rare disease genomes, while Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong's NantHealth won out in cancer. WuXi PharmaTech's ($WX) NextCODE--a spinout from Amgen's ($AMGN) deCODE Genetics that the Chinese CRO bought for $65 million--will work on both rare disease and cancer genomes. Genomics England named a partnership between Lockheed Martin ($LMT) and Cypher Genomics as the reserve bidder. Collectively, the group will spend the next 12 months analyzing the genomes of the first 8,000 patients to be sequenced.

Genomics England is deliberately spreading the work between multiple providers to expose itself to different ways of approaching clinical interpretation. Some of the genomes will be analyzed by multiple providers, enabling Genomics England to compare performance ahead of a decision on which firms will win interpretation contracts for the second phase of the program. With more than 90% of the interpretation work still up for grabs, the four companies face an important 6 months when they start on the first 8,000 genomes in August.

The companies made it this far by showing they could provide automated interpretations of data housed within the Genomics England data center. In making this assessment--and gauging what is the best use of its money--Genomics England decided against working with some big names. The standout example is Illumina, which made it into the 10 finalists but was asked by Genomics England not to tender for the contract. Genomics England made the request as Illumina is already deeply ingrained in the project in its capacity as sequencing partner.

In its role as sequencing partner, Illumina is involved with an array of activities. Genomics England is now expanding its alliance with the tech behemoth to "explore a variety of bioinformatic challenges around sequencing and clinical interpretation."

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Special Report: The 25 most influential people in biopharma in 2015 - Ge Li - WuXi PharmaTech - Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong - NantWorks

Editor's note: This story was edited to clarify that Genomics England asked Illumina not to tender for the clinical interpretation contracts. An earlier version said Illumina "missed out" on the contract.