Tag: cancer


Johns Hopkins Technology that Integrates Earlier Cancer Detection into…

Johns Hopkins Technology that Integrates Earlier Cancer Detection
into Routine Medical Care Receives Record Venture Investment

May 30, 2019

A pioneering blood test developed by Johns Hopkins researchers that incorporates earlier cancer detection into routine medical care has received the largest Series A investment ever for a Johns Hopkins-licensed technology.

CancerSEEK, a liquid biopsy test designed to detect multiple cancer types at earlier stages of the disease, will be developed by Thrive Earlier Detection Corp., a new company that launched today with $110 million in Series A funding. Third Rock Ventures, a Boston-based health care venture firm, led the financing.

Thrive will have offices in Massachusetts and Baltimore and will conduct its research and development at the 1812 Ashland building, part of Johns Hopkins’ innovation hub on the East Baltimore campus. Thrive initially will have 25 employees and occupy 18,000 square feet of office space in Baltimore.

Alongside the CancerSEEK technology, Johns Hopkins also has licensed to Thrive a foundational DNA sequencing technology, Safe-SeqS, and a suite of supporting biomarker technologies.

Kenneth W. Kinzler, left, and Bert Vogelstein, two of the inventors of CancerSEEK.

“This is a milestone moment in the development of Johns Hopkins’ biotech ecosystem,” said Christy Wyskiel, head of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the division of the university that licenses technology and supports university startups. “Johns Hopkins researchers are at the forefront of advancements in cancer diagnostics, and Baltimore is fertile ground for the commercialization of these discoveries into products that revolutionize health care.”

To complement colonoscopy, mammography and other screening tools, CancerSEEK is designed to be used in routine medical care, with the goal of identifying multiple cancer types at earlier stages. To support physicians and patients in acting upon the results of the test, Thrive aims to offer an integrated service that provides support in result interpretation, confirmatory diagnostic testing and guidance for additional clinical care where appropriate.

“To be truly useful to patients, new medical technology must be developed with rigorous evidence and designed to be affordable and readily integrated into routine medical care,” said Steven J. Kafka, a partner at Third Rock Ventures, CEO of Thrive and former president and chief operating officer at Foundation Medicine. “With the help of experts and strategic partners, Thrive is launching today to advance a novel test for the earlier detection of multiple cancers, which we aim to augment with an integrated service that helps patients maneuver the often confusing path that follows a cancer diagnosis.”

Thrive also plans to draw upon demographic and phenotypic information, historical clinical data, radiology and pathology imaging, behavioral data, information from retrospective clinical studies of relevant cohorts, among other sources, to create a learning loop that fine-tunes test performance and expands the number of people who can benefit from earlier cancer screening over time.

“Over the past 30 years we have made great strides in understanding how cancer works. Now, by combining this knowledge with the latest in molecular testing technologies, it has been possible to develop a simple blood test for the detection of many cancers at relatively early stages,” said Bert Vogelstein, Clayton Professor of Oncology in the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and co-director of the Ludwig Center at Johns Hopkins one of the inventors of CancerSEEK and Thrive’s scientific co-founder. “We envision a future where routine preventive care includes a blood test for cancer, just as patients are now routinely tested for early stages of heart disease.  Such testing does not have to be a scary, expensive, or complicated process. We know that if cancer is caught early enough, it often can be cured.”

Other inventors of CancerSEEK from the Kimmel Cancer Center include Kenneth W. Kinzler, a professor of oncology and co-director of the Ludwig Center with Vogelstein; and Nickolas Papadopoulos, an expert in cancer diagnostics and professor of oncology and pathology. Kinzler, Papadopoulos and Vogelstein are among the founders of Personal Genome Diagnostics (PGDx), another Johns Hopkins spinoff that provides advanced genome testing products and services.

“The Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center has been a leader in cancer research and treatment for more than 45 years,” said Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and vice president for medicine at The Johns Hopkins University. “I am excited to see the work of our researchers has been affirmed by this opportunity, which hopefully will lead to more breakthroughs in cancer care.”

CancerSEEK interrogates genomic mutations in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) and cancer-associated protein markers in plasma to identify abnormalities that are common across multiple cancers. CancerSEEK has received Breakthrough Device designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the detection of genetic mutations and proteins associated with pancreatic and ovarian cancers.

In a retrospective study of multiple cancer types published in Science in 2018, CancerSEEK was shown to perform with greater than 99% specificity and with sensitivities ranging from 69% to 98% for the detection of five cancer types – ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreas and esophageal – for which there are no screening tests available for average-risk individuals.

A prospective study of CancerSEEK in healthy individuals, the DETECT study, is already underway to better understand its performance and how to implement its findings in patient care. The study is led by investigators at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in partnership with Geisinger and Thrive. Study enrollment is complete and the data are being analyzed.


Sysmex Inostics Stays Close to Home with New Lab,…

Sysmex Inostics Stays Close to Home with New Lab, Office Space

May 23, 2019

When Sysmex Inostics found itself needing a bigger laboratory and office space, it considered relocating from East Baltimore to less expensive space in Baltimore County, or to one of several former pharmaceutical labs elsewhere in Baltimore City.

Ultimately, however, the groundbreaking molecular diagnostics company decided to move across the street, from the John G. Rangos Sr. Life Sciences Building to the 1812 Ashland building, home of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and its startup incubator, FastForward.

Sysmex Inostics’ new offices at the 1812 Ashland building.

“We kept coming back to Johns Hopkins because of the close network of people and the proximity to the hospital itself and the resources here,” says Dan Edelstein, M.S., M.B.A., the company’s vice president of commercial operations. “Not to mention, Sysmex Inostics was born out of Johns Hopkins in 2008, and some of our earliest adopters and closest advisers are nearby on campus.”

Sysmex Inostics has signed a multiyear lease for the fifth-floor space near Johns Hopkins’ East Baltimore campus, which will include larger lab and office spaces all custom-built by developer Forest City Science + Technology Group and by North Point Builders. The company’s employees have been in the new space since the end of April.

“We had been primarily a clinical lab,” Edelstein says. “The new space allows us to now have a larger office setting integrated with a much bigger lab. This is vital as we expand our clinical testing services into new areas with next-generation technologies.”

Formerly called Inostics, the company pioneered the use of noninvasive liquid biopsies that allow for targeted cancer treatment plans and better tracking of disease status using circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) as a biomarker. Ten years ago, it developed the first commercially available clinical assays for ctDNA, based on the BEAMing technology conceived in 2003 and clinically validated in the laboratory of Bert Vogelstein, M.D., and Ken Kinzler, Ph.D., co-directors of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at Johns Hopkins. Over the past decade, BEAMing has demonstrated high levels of sensitivity and specificity for detecting and monitoring ctDNA across a wide range of cancer types.

Inostics was acquired in 2013 by Sysmex, a Japanese company specializing in hematology analysis, lab automation and integrated lab information systems. The acquisition helped Inostics commercialize its technology worldwide and standardize testing. Sysmex Inostics’ BEAMing technology is now available outside of the United States as a kit that can be used in routine management of patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Both in the U.S. and abroad, the company provides disease focused liquid biopsy testing that can be used in both the clinical trial setting as well as in the clinic.

While liquid biopsies are becoming more commonplace, they have long been accepted at Johns Hopkins, Edelstein says, giving Sysmex Inostics more opportunities to test and refine its technology.

“When you go out to the rest of the world and talk about circulating tumor DNA, most people are asking, ‘Does it match what’s in the tissue?’ Folks at Johns Hopkins, familiar with the concept of ctDNA for well over a decade, have moved beyond that,” Edelstein says. “Investigators at Johns Hopkins incorporating circulating tumor DNA are comfortable with our technology approach since it has been extensively clinically validated across multiple tumor types, and they’re thinking, ‘How can we use this to truly improve patient care?’”

Such collaboration, and the ability of Sysmex Inostics employees to easily head over to Johns Hopkins for a lecture or a meeting, made staying at Johns Hopkins a simple decision, Edelstein adds.

“If you’re in a lab and you’re working on DNA specimens, you don’t necessarily have a patient in mind,” he says. “It just becomes a task. That’s a very important part of being here at Johns Hopkins: maintaining that connection to patient care and the cutting-edge research and discovery that leads to significant leaps forward in our understanding of cancer.”

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