NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Drug discovery startup Q-State Biosciences has acquired the assets of Claritas Genomics through a subsidiary for an undisclosed amount and plans to revive the lab's clinical exome sequencing assays, in collaboration with WuXi NextCode, for its precision medicine programs, GenomeWeb has learned.
The move comes after Claritas, a molecular diagnostics lab spun out of Boston Children's Hospital (BCH) in 2013, closed operations three weeks ago due to disagreement between its investors over funding. Claritas was majority-owned by BCH and held investments from genomic data analysis firm WuXi NextCode and others.
"After the discussions among the shareholders were discontinued, Q-State Biosciences decided to buy the assets of Claritas," said David Margulies, co-founder and executive chairman of Q-State. Margulies, who recently retired from BCH, also co-founded Claritas and served as its executive chairman.
Q-State formed a subsidiary called QNAdx to conduct the acquisition, he said, and is in the process of transferring Claritas' licenses and accreditations to be able to continue clinical testing, which it hopes will resume by the end of the first quarter.
Several "key" staff members of Claritas, including former chief operating officer Mary Ellen Cortizas, are involved in QNAdx, but it is unclear how many former Claritas employees — the company had about 30 staffers before it closed — will rejoin.
"I'm really pleased that Claritas is able to go this route. I think it's a good fit for truly patient-focused care, which is some of the stuff we got involved in in the last year before the closing," Cortizas said.
Q-State plans to collaborate with WuXi NextCode to relaunch Claritas' clinical exome tests for characterizing patients for its drug discovery programs. "The Claritas capabilities will greatly expand Q-State's ability to properly characterize patients who may be eligible for Q-State's partnered drug development programs," Margulies said.
The company has been working with patient families and disease foundations in the areas of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, "and the first step in the pursuit of therapies is to properly characterize the children," he explained.
Claritas' exome assays and analysis tools from WuXi NextCode and Cerner, another former Claritas investor, are a critical piece of that. "For example, if a child may become a candidate for a novel antisense oligo, one needs to have exquisitely accurate sequencing and have the class of bioinformatic tools available that were developed at Claritas and with Wuxi NextCode," he said.
Outsourcing clinical testing was not an option, he added, because the quality of testing and data analysis developed at Claritas "are not replicable in a send-out relationship with other testing laboratories."
Margulies said Q-State will be "working closely" with WuXi NextCode but provided no details about the terms of their collaboration. "We will be discussing our clinical services strategy with them in the coming weeks," he said. WuXi NextCode did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.
QNAdx is taking over Claritas' lab space, which will also house members of WuXi NextCode and Q-State. Besides patient testing, Q-State plans to use the lab for functional genomic testing that is part of its drug discovery process.
Q-State is working in a number of disease areas, including pain, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, syndromic autism, and Rett syndrome.
The company has developed patient stem cell-based disease models of neuronal and cardiac diseases and uses an optical electrophysiology platform to characterize them. Last year, Q-State struck a multi-year therapeutics discovery collaboration for childhood epilepsy with biopharma UCB.
"Reports of Claritas' death were premature," Margulies said. "This is just the beginning of a new chapter."