GE Healthcare said today it will provide sequencing services to a research group at Karolinska Institutet, in the company’s first large-scale sequencing agreement in Europe. The value of the services was not disclosed.

The first clinical study to use GE Healthcare sequencing technology will focus on identifying mutations and genetic variants associated with metastatic breast cancer, the company said. The large, cohort study will be conducted using tissue samples provided by Karolinska Institutet and analyzed using GE Healthcare’s next generation sequencing (NGS) capabilities.

“While antibody-based analysis of biomarkers are the cornerstone to diagnosing breast cancer, uncovering the broader molecular landscape of complex cancers using genome-wide screening tools such as NGS, will be critical to the future of therapeutic decision making and new therapeutic development,” Ger Brophy, GE Healthcare’s CTO, Life Sciences, said in a statement.

GE Healthcare said its agreement with Karolinska Institutet was part of the company’s commitment, announced in September 2011, to spend $1 billion of its total R&D budget over the following five years toward expanding its advanced cancer diagnostic and molecular imaging capabilities, as well as toward its technologies for biopharmaceutical manufacturing and cancer research.

The commitment came a year after GE Healthcare expanded into molecular diagnostics, through its 2010 acquisition of Clarient Diagnostic Services, whose services and diagnostic technologies were focused on cancer assessment and characterization. Last year, GE Healthcare acquired SeqWright, a provider of nucleic acid sequencing and other genomic services, with the goal of boosting Clarient’s genomics capabilities.

Also in 2012, GE Healthcare Life Sciences and Karolinska University Hospital launched a collaboration to develop technologies and workflows to apply cell therapies routinely in a clinical setting. The partnership’s goal is to address the need for reproducible technologies in areas such as cell growth, handling, processing, and analysis, as well as protocols and workflows for manufacturing and quality control.

In the latest agreement, GE Healthcare will provide the services through a subsidiary specializing in nucleic acid sequencing and other genomic services, SeqWright Genomic Services. 

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