Qiagen turns to Sophia Genetics to squeeze more data from next-gen sequencing tests

Qiagen’s next-generation sequencing tests are already used to look for genetic variants that may shed light on an individual’s specific case of cancer and potential treatment options, but the diagnostics giant is looking to turn up the lights even further.

To do so, it’s joining forces with Sophia Genetics, according to a Wednesday announcement. The companies said putting the results of Qiagen’s genomic sequencing panels through Sophia’s artificial-intelligence-powered analytics technology will help pinpoint certain biomarkers in a cancer patient’s genetic makeup, allowing doctors and researchers to better tailor treatments to their needs.

The partnership builds on a “strong and longstanding relationship” between Qiagen and Sophia, according to the latter’s vice president of business development, Kevin Puylaert. Qiagen’s tests have long been included in Sophia’s sequencing bundle kit, Puylaert said in the announcement, adding, “We are taking full advantage of the performance of both solutions in this collaboration and are very optimistic about the positive impact on medicine and research.”

It also marks the first team-up in Qiagen’s newly launched Platform Partnership Program, which is aimed at giving users of the QIAseq next-generation sequencing kits panels more options for analyzing the panels’ findings “to address their unique analysis and interpretation needs,” per Thomas Schweins, Ph.D., senior VP of Qiagen’s life sciences business.

To start, the collaboration will focus on somatic variant detection. Somatic mutations are those that occur outside the reproductive cells and therefore develop after conception rather than being passed down from parent to child.

The results of Qiagen’s QIAseq Targeted DNA Pro panels for homologous recombination repair (HRR) will be further analyzed by Sophia’s data-driven medicine (DDM) platform to look for signs of HRR in tumor cells. The HRR process enables proteins to repair damage to the DNA, and, while mutations in that pathway may make a person more vulnerable to certain types of cancer, some variants have been linked to successful cancer treatment via PARP inhibitor drugs—so pinpointing that biomarker could help shape a more promising treatment plan for a patient with one of the highlighted variants.

From there, the partners’ ultimate vision is to build a collaborative system where customers can create their own workflows, putting practically any QIAseq test—including custom-designed panels—through the DDM platform to look for specific biomarkers.

In recent years, Sophia has struck up a variety of partnerships to strengthen its DDM platform and other genetic analysis tools. The platform uses machine learning to sort through raw genomic data to quickly find specified genetic variants.

This time last year, Sophia inked a deal with Realm IDx to build out the DDM platform with a genetic variant assessment database and a suite of diagnostic tests for early cancer detection developed by Realm IDx subsidiary Ambry Genetics. And, a few months before that, the AI developer linked up with GE HealthCare to build an entirely new treatment-planning and -tracking platform combining the existing DDM technology with GE’s own imaging and patient monitoring devices and AI-powered Edison data-gathering software.