The completion of the first Human Genome Project in 2003 stimulated a race towards converting this momentous scientific effort into tangible socio-economic returns, not least in the form of better diagnostic tests and enhanced therapeutic treatments.
In conjunction with the large-scale initiative, a new paradigm, Personalized Medicine, emerged with a view to individualize the treatment of patients on the basis of genetic traits (e.g. markers of disease risk or drug efficacy). The new paradigm was strongly influenced by the concomitant emergence of a new generation of molecular laboratory applications, notably microarray technology and, in the following, next-generation sequencing (NGS).
In parallel, an entire Genomics industry developed to generate technological innovations that led to the decrease in cost of sequencing from > USD 1 bn for a genome to above USD 1000 in 2016 . Consequently, the need for converting a mass of molecular data into meaning rose dramatically, shifting the complexity in Genomics from generating new information to managing and interpreting diverse sets of data on an unprecedented scale.
Personalized Medicine was fuelled by the hope that the Genomics revolution would deliver new and deep insights into disease-causing genes at a very rapid pace and, ultimately, to lower the cost of health-care. The new paradigm gradually diversified into other concepts, such as 4P Medicine, Stratified Medicine, and Precision Medicine .
To date, the core promise of a more effective health care system owing to the use of Genomics has been fulfilled only partially, mainly due to the biological complexity of human diseases and the effort required demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of Genomic Medicine applications.
In addition to the above, emerging economy health care systems often face further challenges through westernization of life style, increase in non-communicable disease prevalence, and funding constraints.
Artisan Biomed & Artisan Lancet Genomics (ALG)
Realizing the opportunity and need for effective Genomic Medicine in South Africa, the CPGR (Centre for Proteomic & Genomic Research) has formed Artisan Biomed, which in turn has entered into a partnership with Lancet Laboratories.
The partnership, which is going to trade under the name of Artisan Lancet Genomics (ALG), has been created to leverage the parties’ respective strengths and capabilities to develop and implement Genomic Medicine solutions for the South African health care market.
While ALG’s initial focus will be on applications for non-communicable and rare genetic disorders, including postnatal genetic testing, NIPT (Non-invasive prenatal testing), and cancer sequencing, it will expand its offering in accordance with market needs. The joint offering will be based on rendering molecular testing services with a strong emphasis on generating actionable outcomes for doctors and clinicians.
Notably, the partnership will render cutting-edge solutions through local value creation and service provision. This will facilitate the development of stronger customer relations in the interest of high-quality service delivery, user empowerment, and local innovation.
Realizing the benefit of a diversity of expertise in developing and implementing Genomic Medicine, the partnership aims at forging mutually benefice relations with other stakeholders in the (South) African health care and Genomic Medicine innovation system.
In addition to creating a clinical genomic service offering, Artisan Biomed, in partnership with Lancet, also aims at rendering increasing value to clinical trials conducted in (South) Africa by virtue of servicing high-end Genomics study components in South Africa. At present, Africa attracts about 2-2.5 % of the total global clinical trial work, the majority of which is done in South Africa . While South Africa, with a well-developed private hospital and medical research infrastructure, is currently well positioned for clinical research, there is untapped opportunity for ‘omics’ based biomarker profiling, patient stratification in clinical trials, and companion diagnostics.
The CPGR is one of Africa’s first fully integrated ‘omics’ service provider, built to leapfrog South Africa’s ability to conduct information-rich biomedical research onto a globally competitive level. Amongst others, the organization offers the following ‘omics’ capacity: Next-Generation Sequencing: NextSeq500 (1x), MiSeq (1x), MiniSeq (1x), IonTorrent PGM (2x), IonProton (1x), for sequencing projects; Microarrays: Affymetrix GS 3000 and Affymetrix GeneTitan for genoytping and gene-expression analysis; Mass spectrometry: ABI 4800 MALDI-ToF/ToF and Thermo Q Exactive for MS-Proteomics; High-throughput PCR: ABI 7900 for qRT-PCR applications; Automated DNA/RNA QC, library handling and sample processing; dedicated IT infrastructure and bioinformatic applications for data analysis and interpretation.
The CPGR is a non-profit company located in Cape Town, South Africa, based on an initiative by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and financially supported by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). TIA is a national public entity that serves as the key institutional intervention to bridge the innovation chasm between research and development from higher education institutions, science councils, public entities, and private sector, and commercialization. As part of its vision to stimulate and support technological innovation, it is managing a nationwide technology platform program to enhance South Africa’s capacity in capital-intensive areas such as Genomics, Proteomics and Metabolomics.
The CPGR combines state-of-the-art information rich genomic and proteomic (‘omics’) technologies with bio-computational pipelines to render services and support projects in the life science and biomedical arena in (South) Africa. The CPGR has adopted a certified ISO 9001:2008 quality management system and is a BEE Level 2 contributor to economic transformation in South Africa. It has recently launched an accelerator program to stimulate the creation of South African start-ups based on ‘omics’ technologies.
Through Artisan and its partnership with Lancet Laboratories, CPGR will be in an ideal position to support and stimulate bio-medical innovation from bench-to-bedside in (South) Africa.
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About Lancet Laboratories
Lancet Laboratories is multidisciplinary pathology laboratory that performs diagnostic laboratory testing and has a wide geographic footprint that includes South Africa, Southern African development community states, and numerous sub-Saharan countries including Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The laboratory diagnostic capability includes the spectrum of pathology testing in chemistry, haematology, microbiology, virology, histology and cytology, and molecular diagnostics. The laboratory operates to the highest accreditation and diagnostics standards throughout all of its facilities and adheres to ISO Standard 15189.
The laboratory and its many specialist pathologists consult on thousands of patients every day across the health care sector on clinical situations ranging from infectious diseases to oncology. Lancet Laboratories is therefore the interface between the clinician, patient and laboratory information that informs patient diagnosis and treatment across the African continent in private, public and corporate health care settings. In taking genomic medicine and its applications to the clinic, the partnership between Lancet and Artisan Biomed is uniquely placed to connect patient, clinician, technology and diagnostic expertise to achieve health outcomes.
Information about the Lancet Laboratories can be obtained at www.lancet.co.za
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