Genomics England, the Department of Health and Social Care’s genomics spin-out, and Cambridge Cancer Genomics (CCG.ai), a precision Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform company, announced today a broad partnership to improve UK-patient access to immune-system modulating cancer drugs (immunotherapies), monitor treatment effectiveness over time, and rapidly identify resistance to these drugs.
Immunotherapies are fast becoming one of our most effective tools to fight cancer, working by stimulating a patient’s immune system to attack cancer. By leveraging the immune system’s own precise, adaptive defences against tumours, immunotherapy has the potential to be a universal answer to cancer. The gold-standard biomarker for response to immunotherapies is overall tumour mutational burden (TMB), calculated by whole genome sequencing (WGS). TMB is a measure of the density of genetic alterations throughout a patient’s genome and is therefore a good indicator of how easily a patient’s immune system can recognise their tumour as foreign. Whilst WGS allows us to infer TMB directly, the expensive and time-consuming nature of this makes it inviable for most patients.
Building on the data from Genomics England’s 100,000 genomes project and CCG.ai’s expertise in AI-driven cancer diagnostics, a long term partnership between the two companies is announced today. This includes CCG.ai’s membership of Genomics England’s industry network (Discovery Forum), and a collaborative research project that has yielded a ‘sequencing-panel’ designed to cost-effectively profile TMB. The new panel also incorporates genes known to correlate with treatment response and treatment resistance to immuno-oncology (IO) drugs.
Once properly tested, it is hoped that this sequencing panel will reduce the cost of assessing the effectiveness of immunotherapies. When twinned with CCG.ai’s ‘liquid biopsy’ technology - using AI to accurately analyse tumour DNA in a blood sample - this panel could also allow TMB to be calculated from a patient's blood, and serial samples could tell an oncologist when a tumour is becoming resistant to immunotherapy. Stratification of responders and non-responders will also reduce the effective cost of immunotherapies and may increase access to this new drug class in the NHS.
“Genomics England have set the standard for population-scale whole genome sequencing. CCG.ai are excited to help translate this formative work into clinical benefit for cancer patients.” said Dr John Cassidy, CEO at CCG.ai
“Through genomic analysis of longitudinal liquid biopsy samples collected on a bi-weekly basis, we are able to detect the signals of resistance and relapse much earlier than standard of care. In this project, we hope to extend this technology to a new class of breakthrough cancer medicines.” added Dr Nirmesh Patel, CSO at CCG.ai
“Our partnership with CCG.ai is a perfect example of the value of the Genomics England Discovery Forum, and the 100,000 Genomes Project. The data and samples that have been donated by NHS patients are being used to help innovative technologies improve healthcare in very real ways. It is exciting for us to see our Discovery Forum member organisations help return diagnoses to previously undiagnosed patients; explore the dataset to develop more effective therapies; and bring together exciting advances from different fields, like liquid biopsies and artificial intelligence, to build the next generation of diagnostic tools that will underpin precision medicine.
“The process that CCG.ai went through with us highlights an important pillar of our organisation – the participants of the 100,000 Genomes Project. They have trusted us to be the custodians of their data, and in turn we have a responsibility to treat that with great care. Getting access to participant data or samples is a rigorous process by design, and one that involves the participants. In the case of CCG.ai, participants were particularly impressed by and enthusiastic about the CCG.ai research proposal, and eager to visit the company in Cambridge.
“Partnerships like this strike at three important priorities for Genomics England 1) The importance we place on acting in the best interest of our participants, 2) enabling innovative technologies to improve patient outcomes, and 3) helping the UK genomics industry grow.” said Joanne Hackett, Chief Commercial Officer at Genomics England
About Genomics England
Genomics England is a company owned by the Department of Health and Social Care. It was set up to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project, bringing genomic medicine capabilities to the NHS through the Genomic Medicine Service.
The Genomics England Discovery Forum is the collaborative industry network engaged in research on data from the 100,000 Genomes Project.
About Cambridge Cancer Genomics
Cambridge Cancer Genomics (CCG.ai) is a Y Combinator backed startup building the underlying tools to empower oncologists to make the best therapeutic decisions for their patients. Their precision AI platform, OncOS, is fast becoming the global open standard for next generation sequencing analysis and clinical decision support in cancer medicine. By focussing on machine learning based analytics of serial liquid biopsy samples, CCG.ai is building predictive models to understand how tumors evolve and how this can impact on response to therapy. As this knowledge base of tumour genomic evolution increases, OncOS will become the operating system for personalised cancer medicine. At CCG.ai, our mission is to ensure every patient gets the right drug, at the right time, to beat their cancer.
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