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Sema4, NorthShore Announce System-Wide Genomics, Research Partnership

By Allison Proffitt


April 19, 2021 | Sema4 has launched a strategic partnership with NorthShore University HealthSystem announcing the availability of a system-wide data-driven genomics program that uses predictive analytics to help clinicians and patients prevent, detect, and treat diseases at an early stage.

“We share the same vision of how do we start to take a holistic look at the picture in terms of genomic information, but all the information we have on a patient and use that to drive insights to better the care for our patients,” Peter Hulick, MD, director of the Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine at NorthShore told Diagnostics World News.

More than 1,000 NorthShore physicians and approximately 300,000 patients will have access to Sema4’s genomic solutions for hereditary cancer, cardiovascular diseases, pharmacogenomics, and rare diseases including Sema4Signal and Centrellis.

NorthShore already has a clinical genomics offering for routine primary care, Hulick explained. “Since 2019, patients who are coming in for their annual history and physical exam… can elect to have a population screening panel for conditions like hereditary cancers, for example BRCA I and II, familial hypercholesterolemia, Lynch syndrome, and some other conditions. Some of these are CDC Tier 1 conditions. That’s a designation that’s ripe for a potential population-approach to implementation,” Hulick said. “With Sema4, we can partner together to take what we’ve been doing to that next level in terms of what we can offer at the population level, but also using targeted insights into family history to teeing up even more targeting testing options, for example for heredity cancer, when the family or personal history warrants that.”

Personalized medicine is more than tumor and germline DNA, Hulick emphasized. “Personalized medicine means more than that. It’s taking all the available information about a patient—genetic and non-genetic—and putting that picture together.”  

By combining clinical information with genomic analysis, Sema4’s technology platform structures and evaluates data sets to draw insights on how genetic variants will impact patients’ chances of developing disease and to determine the most appropriate treatment options, helping their doctors administer more personalized, holistic care plans. NorthShore will have the opportunity to benefit from disease network models developed by Sema4. For example, disease models for cancers will provide a comprehensive view of cancer patients, their tumor progression, and how best to diagnose or treat them.

“We’re coming together to learn together with the genomic health screening and other types of approaches,” said Glenn Farrell, chief marketing officer and EVP, research strategy, at Sema4. “New genomic insights are coming out every single day. With Sema4’s health intelligence platform, Centrellis, we’re continually mining the literature and understanding related insights for the genomic data. At the same time, NorthShore is every single day engaging with their patients and looking to advance the standard of care... It’s a deep partnership where together we learn, and together we apply the latest insights.”

In addition to guiding clinicians, the program makes it easier for NorthShore patients to understand the implications of genomic findings. Novel digital tools and resources will uncover personalized insights that shape the care of multiple conditions throughout the lifetimes of patients. Patients also have an opportunity to consent to share de-identified data to improve research programs focused on expanding the understanding of genomic-guided care.  

The research programs will also be joint initiatives. Sema4 will be part of NorthShore’s Genetic Health Initiative, and will conduct screening, testing, and lab work at Sema4. Informatics done at Sema4 will be returned NorthShore.

We’ll be “working together, amassing data—clinical, genomic, and otherwise—to create more informed models of disease and wellness, applying those, and looking ultimately for clinical validation,” Farrell said.

“The goal of this partnership is not just to get a bunch of people tested. We want to drive insight into the way that we activate people into care—the care that they need, based on solid medical data and evidence,” Hulick said. “It’s not always necessarily that it’s going to be more care… hopefully we can start to understand insights for some patient who may not need as much routine care. Over-screening can cause just as much harm as under-screening. That’s a harder bar to get to, but that’s where the insights that we develop will get to: what is truly the right amount of care the patient needs to ensure that they have the healthiest life possible.”

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