NEW YORK – With its recent acquisition of French bioinformatics firm IntegraGen, Belgian molecular diagnostics company OncoDNA aims to integrate the firm's software into its own clinical workflow to provide a premium offering for cancer analytics and increase its presence in the European biopharma space.
OncoDNA believes that IntegraGen's algorithms and cloud solutions will help it manage more cancer patient data in a shorter period of time to generate patient-specific reports to help clinicians with treatment decisions.
Founded in 2012 by CEO Jean-Pol Detiffe, OncoDNA has launched a series of liquid biopsy and tissue-based next-generation sequencing (NGS) panels for detecting, monitoring, and guiding cancer treatment, including metastatic breast, head and neck, and bladder cancers. Users can run the assays on sequencing instruments from firms such as Thermo Fisher Scientific and Illumina.
Meanwhile, IntegraGen, based in a suburb of Paris, offers dedicated software that performs primary and secondary bioinformatics analyses. For example, the firm's Mercury software — an oncology-specific cloud-based platform —helps cancer research centers manage bioanalytical pipelines, annotate exome and transcriptome sequencing data, and produce reports for research and clinical trials.
Detiffe said that the two firms initially discussed a potential collaboration in early 2018. However, IntegraGen CEO Bernard Courtieu noted the group began to execute plans following OncoDNA's Series B funding round earlier this year.
"The fact that we are public and they are private made [the collaboration] a little more complex than normal operations," Courtieu explained. "The question … we needed to answer was, [despite] having several contractual cooperations in place already to cross-sell and cross-develop a number of options, [how to move] from that to a full-fledged acquisition."
Detiffe likened the merger to Qiagen's acquisition of N-of-One in 2019, as OncoDNA lacked the ability to manage large amounts of cancer patient data on a virtual server for downstream analysis.
"IntegraGen is the biggest Illumina provider in France, [performing] a lot of whole-genome, exome, and whole-transcriptome sequencing services with big academic customers, mainly for cancer and rare disease," Detiffe noted.
IntegraGen will provide its technical core of algorithms and cloud-based solutions for primary and secondary analysis of NGS raw data for researchers "wishing to dig into the data and play with filters," Courtieu said. This includes alignment, annotation, mutation and fusion detection, calculating tumor mutational burden, and generating variant call format (VCF) text files.
OncoDNA will then apply its OncoKDM (Knowledge Drive Medicine) cancer software on the analytical results from IntegraGen, which generates a final clinical report to an oncologist for potential treatment options. Detiffe said that OncoDNA will be able to use "any kind of raw data," including whole-genome or exome data from its own assays, to generate the patient-specific report.
"Mercury will typically benefit from the OncoKDM database, while KDM will benefit from a structured cloud-enabled bioinformatics pipeline," Courtieu said. "We can use common parts that are industrialized on primary and secondary analysis, and work from that to save a huge amount of time for developing [each other's offerings]."
However, Detiffe noted that OncoDNA has not yet decided whether to rebrand IntegraGen to better reflect the firm's long-term goals — as it did with its prior acquisition of Spanish personalized cancer genomics firm BioSequence — or to allow IntegraGen to act as a separate entity. While the group announced the acquisition earlier this month, the firms are still in the process of finalizing the tending offer with IntegraGen stockholders as part of the acquisition.
Courtieu believes the merger allows for significant growth for both companies in the biopharma space, particularly to serve as a central lab for genomics and drug development. He argued that IntegraGen will provide a lab that is fully accredited and flexible for OncoDNA's interest in the European sector.
In addition to working with IntegraGen, OncoDNA has also partnered with multiple firms in countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa to distribute a variety of its molecular profiling products. Courtieu hopes to leverage OncoDNA's partnerships with these groups to expand IntegraGen's global footprint outside of France.
OncoDNA is also collaborating with academic groups in Europe that use OncoKDM for cancer-based NGS data interpretation, such as the Bordet Institute in Belgium, Birmingham University in the UK, Charité in Germany, and the Institut Gustave Roussy in France.
Detiffe argued that OncoDNA's technology stands out from that of competitors because it can offer cancer interpretation via OncoKDM using a multitude of sources: a physical sample (tumor, paraffin, or blood); raw sequencing data from a lab performing tumor analysis; initial and secondary analyses; and an already completed patient final report from other firms.
While OncoDNA and IntegraGen will initially focus on finalizing the acquisition and improving their European business reach, they are also eyeing the US market. However, Detiffe acknowledged that the US is a tougher market to enter than other countries, as the firm will encounter more competition and specific regulations like CLIA/CAP for potential laboratories.
OncoDNA aims to capitalize on IntegraGen's and its own existing relationships with academic groups to help own push into the US market. Importantly, the firms will use IntegraGen's partnership with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston as a starting point for further growth in the US.
"Tough competition means also more investments, but the US is [a] huge market," Detiffe said. "We plan to be more present in the US, first via our software proposal of OncoKDM, and [then] with a partner CLIA lab for our diagnostic tests."
Detiffe noted that OncoDNA expects to release additional news about US entry within the next year.
"Everything is ready from IntegraGen's side, as its lab and IT software are already in the cloud and are able to manage these large amounts of data," Detiffe said. "With IntegraGen, we will have an idea of how to enter the US and [its] biopharma business."