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BGI and START initiate collaboration to advance unique San Antonio 1000 Cancer Genome Project

Cambridge, MA, San Antonio, TX and Shenzhen, China, September 12, 2013BGI Tech Solutions Co., LTD, (BGI Tech), a subsidiary of BGI, the world's largest genomics research organization, and South Texas Accelerated Research Therapeutics (START), announced today that they are collaborating on the San Antonio 1000 Cancer Genome Project, a groundbreaking cancer genome study designed to link genetic alterations that underlie different cancers to detailed clinical outcomes. Such findings could enable scientists to pursue the development of targeted, personalized cancer treatments. All data generated from SA1kCGP will be made available publicly and freely to researchers and others worldwide.

The San Antonio 1000 Cancer Genome Project (SA1kCGP) is presently conducting whole genome sequencing of cancerous and normal tissue and blood samples from patients with one of 10 cancers. Under the collaboration, BGI Tech will provide next-generation high-throughput genomic sequencing to identify mutations associated with specific cancers, as well as gathering, analyzing and archiving at BGI all genetic and clinical data generated through the tumor sequencing and clinical analyses. START, which initiated SA1kCGP, will conduct patient recruitment, tumor sample acquisition, and collection of clinical patient information.

SA1kCGP is unique relative to other major cancer genome research projects, given the project's direct linkage of genomic and clinical information, including both treatment and survival data, using START's electronic medical records and proprietary Clinical Synchrony software technology, so that the relationship of genomic alterations and clinical outcome can be realized. This cannot be done with data from other major cancer genome research projects that only collect minimal clinical information, such as The Cancer Genome Atlas, a research program conducted by the National Institutes of Health at a cost to date of more than $375 million.

"We are excited to be collaborating with START on this extremely important, fundamentally different cancer genomic research," stated Yingrui Li, Chief Executive Officer of BGI Tech. "With SA1kCGP's world-class team of physicians and researchers, the leadership of START's Dr. Tony Tolcher, and the scope and size of the project, we expect SA1kCGP to accelerate the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapies. SA1kCGP is unique as a privately funded project strategically structured to generate correlated, useful, and accessible clinical and genomic cancer data that could lead to beneficial, targeted cancer treatments," he continued.

"Teaming with BGI Tech, with its broad array of sequencing technologies, deep bioinformatics expertise, and extensive throughput capacity, will advance SA1kCGP to a whole new level," stated Dr. Anthony W. Tolcher, clinical director for START. "As a privately funded effort, SA1kCGP depends upon the shared vision and commitment of community-based donors, and the profound role BGI will play in the project further elevates the potential benefits that can be achieved for cancer patients through these generous contributions," he added.

SA1kCGP, launched in 2012, has already exceeded its initial goal of collecting samples from 1,000 patients. With a 90 percent consent rate and growing pace of enrollment, 1,200 patients have agreed to date to have their tumor tissues sampled and to allow for the transplantation of their tumors to mouse models in order to target genetic mutations for drug selection and development. SA1kCGP plans to sequence the cancer genomes of 10,000 patients at a fraction of the cost of other major cancer genome projects. The budget for SA1kCGP currently stands at $5 million, with approximately $1 million raised to date exclusively through community contributions.

SA1kCGP has assembled a world-class team of more than 200 San Antonio area cancer surgeons, pathologists, researchers and oncologists from numerous hospitals, most of which are local providers at community-based facilities where 90 percent of cancer care and where clinical studies occur. These hospitals are enrolling cancer patients into the research project, and collecting the tissue samples to be sequenced and analyzed. By working through this community network, referral bias (influence of disparate data source) will be avoided since the patient population will be typical of the representative cancer patient in the community, as opposed to patients in tertiary cancer centers. This increases the ability to generate large enough data sets for analysis through predicative algorithms that could ultimately explain underlying biological causes of cancer.

In contrast to past research, where sample preservation was formaldehyde based for 30 years, hematology and oncology researchers involved in SA1kCGP have agreed to change the paradigm for genomic oncology by using fresh tissue for this analysis. The logistics of obtaining fresh tissue is a major hurdle to large scale genomic research in oncology, a barrier that START has addressed by targeting community treatment centers, where 90 percent of cancer care occurs. These samples will also be available for further research in areas of RNA and protein analysis to complement the DNA sequencing.


Contact: Jia Liu
BGI Shenzhen

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