AllSeq is excited to again be partnering with the Personalized Medicine World Conference. As a part of this partnership, we’ve been invited to interview three of the thought leaders that will be speaking at this event: Cliff Reid – CEO, Complete Genomics; Michael Snyder – Professor & Chair, Stanford Center for Genomics & Personalized Medicine; and Leroy Hood – President, Institute for Systems Biology.
Through these interviews, which we’ll post over the next few weeks, we explore the role that next generation sequencing has to play in clinical medicine, now and in the future.
Our first interview is with Clifford A. Reid, Ph.D., who is co-founder of Complete Genomics and has served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman since July 2005 and as a member of the board of directors since July 2005. From March 2003 to September 2005, Dr. Reid was Vice President of Collaborative Solutions at Open Text Corporation, a software company. In 1995, Dr. Reid co-founded Eloquent, Inc., a digital video communications company, and served as its Chief Executive Officer until 1999 and as its Chairman until 2003, when it was acquired by Open Text. In 1988, Dr. Reid co-founded Verity, Inc., an enterprise text search engine company, and served as its Vice President of Engineering from 1988 to 1992 and as its Executive Vice President from 1992 to 1993. Dr. Reid received a B.S. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.B.A. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.
AllSeq – NGS is starting to be adopted in the clinic, with NIPT, cancer, and rare childhood diseases being the first examples. Where do you think we’ll start seeing NGS adopted next?
Dr. Reid – I think the next important development of NGS in the clinic will be penetration in these disease areas, not new disease areas. These three areas represent the “low hanging fruit” for clinical genomics. The next frontier is the common diseases with a genetic component, such as cardiac disease, autoimmune disease, and the diseases of aging (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.). These common diseases will require large-scale research projects, ultimately involving millions of patients.
AllSeq – How far along the clinical adoption curve do you think we are?
Dr. Reid – We are clearly at the very early stage of the clinical adoption curve, with only a few examples of clinical utility having been demonstrated. In these examples (NIPT, cancer, and rare diseases) adoption is just beginning, mostly at the large Academic Medical Centers. Broad adoption in community health centers around the world has barely begun.
AllSeq – What’s the biggest factor preventing NGS from more widely adopted in the clinic?
Dr. Reid – In terms of the relatively small number of patients world wide who are enjoying the benefits of clinical NGS, the key barriers are educational and financial. Relatively few doctors and patients are aware of clinical NGS solutions, and many payers (mostly private in the US and mostly public outside the US) are still evaluating the benefits and economic of clinical NGS assays. In terms of the relatively small number of applications (e.g. there are no significant clinical NGS applications in such major common diseases as cardiac disease, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other diseases of aging), the key barrier is the lack of clinical utility, which can only be achieved by more research. We need much larger research studies to identify the genetic basis of common diseases than we need for rare diseases or extreme genotypes like cancer and trisomy-based disorders.
AllSeq – Driving down the cost of sequencing has been the biggest push so far. Is that still the case, or do you think other factors are becoming more important?
Dr. Reid – Cost of sequencing remains important, but as sequencing costs continue to decline, genomic data sets are going to start to get really big. The genomics research community has not had to deal with very large data sets, so new genomic data management and analysis tools and capabilities are going to continue to grow in importance.
AllSeq – Do you think the use of NGS will take off in the ‘direct to consumer’ space?
Dr. Reid – Yes I do, once we know more. Despite the growing popular awareness of the ongoing revolution in DNA sequencing, and a few applications of clinical NGS, we are still at the very early stages of understanding the functions of the human genome. Ultimately I think we will all have our genomes sequenced for a wide variety of personal and clinical uses – almost none of which we know of today. We are in the golden age of genomic research, and in the coming years we will unlock the mysteries of how our genomes work.
AllSeq – Complete Genomics originally only offered human whole genome sequencing, but recently started offering exome sequencing (via BGI) as well. What prompted the change?
Dr. Reid – As an independent company, Complete Genomics focused exclusively on whole human genome sequencing as our business strategy. As part of BGI, we are now able to work with BGI’s global organization to apply our technology to a wide variety of new and different applications. Not only is BGI offering exome sequencing on our technology, it is also performing the NIPT test in China using our technology, following approval by the Chinese FDA. So our partnership with BGI has dramatically expanded the applications of our technology.
AllSeq – Will Complete Genomics continue to operate as a service model, or do you ever anticipate selling a standalone instrument into the market?
Dr. Reid – As part of BGI we have flexibility we have never had before. Over the coming years we expect to participate in the full range of genomics products and services, spanning both research and clinical applications. As we enter the clinical market we recognize that our sequencing technology is going to have to run in multiple locations, to support the “in-country, for-country” approach taken by many government-run health care systems. We are exploring many different business models to support these clinical customers.
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