Illumina taps Henry Ford Health System to explore whole-genome testing for heart disease

Illumina aims to do for heart disease what DNA testing has done for cancer treatments by opening the doors to personalized medicine. 

Starting with a partnership with Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System, the pair will study the genetic traits of 1,500 patients and explore whether whole-genome sequencing can help guide cardiovascular care. Dubbed CardioSeq, the study is described as the first of several in the collaboration.

“What we're initially most interested in is the rate of the change in medical management due to the genetic information, but eventually we will be looking at differences in cost and clinical outcomes as well,” David Lanfear, M.D., the study's lead clinician and vice president of clinical and translational research at Henry Ford Health, said in a release.

Illumina hopes the addition of genomic data can lead to faster diagnoses in cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide, as well as help steer patients toward medications that would have fewer side effects based on how they would interact with their bodies.

“We share the belief that genomics should be integrated into standard of care across clinical indications as one of the key determinants of health,” said Illumina’s chief medical officer, Phil Febbo, M.D. “We intend for our partnership to demonstrate the benefits of such an approach for individual patients and the broader health care system, especially in underserved communities.”

The whole-genome sequencing test tapped for the CardioSeq study will check each patient for more than 200 DNA biomarkers linked to cardiovascular disease as well as signs of inherited heart conditions.

After that, the health system will rely on genetic counselors to report any inherited disease findings to participating patients, while pharmacists will make recommendations based on potential drug interactions.

Henry Ford researchers, including those at the system’s Lisa and Christopher Jeffries Center for Precision Medicine and the Center for Individualized and Genomic Medicine Research, plan to complete testing all 1,500 participants by the end of next year. With patients' consent, samples and DNA data will also be used for the pair's research in genomic medicine.

In the field of cancer, Illumina has spun its DNA expertise into the TruSight Oncology 500 biopsy test, designed to detect the genetic biomarkers of solid tumors. While currently available for research use only in the U.S., a clinical version has received a green light in Europe, where it’s also been approved as a companion diagnostic for Bayer’s gene-targeted drug Vitrakvi.

Meanwhile, Illumina continues to pursue full ownership of the cancer blood test developer Grail. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission have formally objected to the $8 billion acquisition, which Illumina moved to complete in August 2021. While facing fines and other potential costs related to a sale, Illumina has said it plans to appeal the decisions on both sides of the Atlantic.