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15 June, 2020 - 10:45 By Tony Quested

UK-Italy genomics venture to scale precision oncology

A new UK-Italian genomics alliance promises to leverage Cambridge artificial intelligence to transform cancer patient management, treatment and monitoring.

Cambridge Cancer Genomics (CCG.ai) has joined forces with Abruzzo-based Dante Labs, a pioneer and leader in genomic testing, and Birmingham business Nonacus which provides genetic testing products for precision medicine and liquid biopsy.

CCG.ai, a software developer specialising in data-driven precision oncology, says the partnership aims to build the most comprehensive and patient-centric tumour profiling service. 

By combining Dante Labs’ experience and capacity in delivering a sequencing service for both solid tumour and cell free circulating tumour DNA from liquid biopsies, Nonacus’ sensitive targeted pan-cancer NGS libraries, and CCG.ai’s industry AI-powered software platform, OncOS, the companies will enable precision oncology at scale.

Improving outcomes for cancer patients means ensuring they have the right drug, at the right time to beat their cancer. This means understanding the molecular profile of the individual cancer and using that data to recommend treatments or clinical trials. 

Oncologists and clinical researchers will be able to send samples for processing to Dante Labs, who will use library preparation kits from Nonacus and software from CCG.ai to create a sample to report solution. 

If there are actionable mutations, the report will recommend the right treatments for those mutations; if there are novel or unactionable mutations the software will also be able to match possible clinical trials.  

Nirmesh Patel, CSO at Cambridge Cancer Genomics, said: “With cancer being one of the greatest healthcare challenges we are facing, this partnership opens the door to democratising access to data-driven cancer treatment. 

“Combining our industry leading precision oncology platform with Nonacus’ precise NGS solutions and Dante Labs’ fast and efficient NGS services provides customers with the ability to perform precision oncology at scale. 

“The combined solution will enable oncologists to precisely and comprehensively profile a patient’s tumour and ultimately improve outcomes.”

Chris Sale, CEO of Nonacus, pointed out that COVID-19 had increased the backlog of genetic testing for cancer, potentially leaving many suspected cancers unconfirmed and treatments delayed.

He said: “Long turn-around time and lack of clinically oriented analysis are the main obstacles to fully deliver the potential of cancer genomics to patients. 

“This partnership will provide the flexibility and accuracy that oncology professionals need to integrate cancer genomics into the care of their patients. Only by developing comprehensive content at scale will it be possible to address the COVID backlog.”


Dr Mattia Capulli and Andrea Riposati of Dante Labs

Gianmarco Contino of Dante Labs described the venture as “the beginning of a revolution in cancer treatment. Until now we have been treating cancer by tissue of origin. 

“But each cancer harbours a unique combination of mutation which makes it effectively a ‘rare’ disease. Therefore the right approach should be to start from the mutations and look for the right drugs. 

“There is a great deal we can learn from sequencing cancer genomes: not only what therapy is going to be more effective but also safer and less toxic. We are now at a stage where a patient can benefit directly from this knowledge. Machine learning is helping us to unleash the potential of information hidden in the complexity of the genome.”

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