Health data company expands in Stamford as demand grows for genetic research and personal medicine

Sema4, a health data research company, announced Thursday it opened a 70,000-square foot building in Stamford with more than 300 workers processing genomic tests, its third site in Connecticut to keep pace with growing demand for data-driven health care.

The Stamford laboratory complements Sema4 1/4 u2032s Branford lab that was expanded earlier this year and its headquarters, also in Stamford.

The new Sema4 lab replaces one in New York City, providing additional capacity to support genomic testing and expand digital health services. With its Stamford and Branford labs, Sema4 will increase its ability to provide health information across several thousand genetically identifiable diseases to patients.

Eric Schadt, founder and chief executive of Sema4, said the new Stamford site will be a hub for research and development for predictive modeling and information-driven testing.

In addition to lab employees, the Stamford facility also has capacity for 100 genetic counselors, bioinformatics specialists and support service staff. Sema4 has more than 500 employees in Connecticut across its two lab facilities and Stamford headquarters. Its workforce has quadrupled over the last three years.

Sema4 also maintains an office in New York City.

The company’s growth reflects rapid advances in personal medicine and genomics, which focuses on sequencing and analyzing an organism’s genome, the DNA content in a cell.

The state announced in 2018 a $6 million loan to Sema4 to move its New York City laboratory to Connecticut and create 400 jobs. “We were kind of busting at the seams,” Schadt said at the time.

In Connecticut, Sema4 is part of an expanding cluster of medical technology companies, such as Arvinas, a New Haven cancer pharmaceutical company, and the Guilford medical device company Butterfly Network.

Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected]

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com

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Fred Hutch researchers uncover new genetic details of White House COVID-19 outbreak

Since it was revealed in early October, details about President Trump’s COVID-19 infection have been in short supply, including the likely source of his exposure and when he was tested.



a group of people standing in front of a building: Judge Amy Coney Barrett delivers remarks after President Donald Trump announces her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sept. 26, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. The event is believed to be responsible for the spread of COVID-19 among some attendees. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks, Public Domain )


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Judge Amy Coney Barrett delivers remarks after President Donald Trump announces her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sept. 26, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. The event is believed to be responsible for the spread of COVID-19 among some attendees. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks, Public Domain )

New research from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle gives a glimpse into the spread of the disease among America’s first family and White House staff and guests.

Two journalists who directly interacted with White House officials at the end of September — but were not in each other’s company — contracted variations of the virus that were “highly genetically similar.” The genetic code from the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, that infected the journalists contained five unique mutations and were distinct from the genomes of more than 160,000 publicly available virus sequences.

The scientists said this particular lineage of the virus was first documented in the U.S. in April or May, but its exact spread from there was unclear.

Shortly after Trump was infected, Anthony S. Fauci — the nation’s top infectious-disease expert — said that the White House had been the site of a so-called super spreader event when it hosted a Rose Garden reception for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, now a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Photos show that many in attendance did not wear masks. At least 50 COVID-19 cases have been connected to an outbreak associated with the White House, according to the researchers.

Trump Administration officials at the time of the outbreak made little effort to do contact tracing to potentially help contain the spread — a decision that drew criticism from some health experts.

When it comes to the source of the White House infections, “it’s sort of an unknowable question, where it entered the environment,” said White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern, in a press conference on Oct. 7.

The Fred Hutch-led research calls that assertion into question. While it’s too late to use the information to limit spread from the initial event, genomic sequencing could provide additional insights into the path of transmission if more samples were tested. It could also help build a more complete picture of the outbreak’s spread by analyzing infections that occur weeks or months following the White House event.



chart: Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have created a family tree for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and identified the form associated with the White House outbreak. (Fred Hutch Image)


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Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have created a family tree for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and identified the form associated with the White House

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Tests Show Genetic Signature of Coronavirus That Likely Infected Trump

President Trump’s illness from a coronavirus infection last month was the most significant health crisis for a sitting president in nearly 40 years. Yet little remains known about how the virus arrived at the White House and how it spread.

The administration did not take basic steps to track the outbreak, limiting contact tracing, keeping cases a secret and cutting out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The origin of the infections, a spokesman said, was “unknowable.”

But one standard public health technique may still shed some light: tracking the cluster’s genetic fingerprints.

To better understand the outbreak, The Times worked with prominent geneticists to determine the genetic sequence of viruses that infected two Times journalists believed to been exposed to the coronavirus as part of their work covering the White House.

The study reveals, for the first time, the genetic sequence of the virus that may have infected President Trump and dozens of others, researchers said. That genome is a crucial clue that may allow researchers to identify where the outbreak originated and whether it went on to infect others across the country.

The White House has not disclosed any effort to conduct similar genetic testing, but the study’s results show that it is still possible, even weeks after positive tests. Additional sequencing could help establish the path of the virus through the White House, the role of a possible super-spreading event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett and the origin of an outbreak among the staff of Vice President Mike Pence in the last week or so.

The journalists, Michael D. Shear and Al Drago, both had significant, separate exposure to White House officials in late September, several days before they developed symptoms. They did not spend any time near each other in the weeks before their positive tests.

Mr. Shear traveled with Mr. Trump and other staff on Air Force One on Sept. 26, when Mr. Trump approached within five or six feet without a mask. Mr. Drago covered the Judge Barrett event that day and a news conference the next day near officials who were not wearing masks and later tested positive.

The viral genomes of the two journalists shared the same distinct pattern of mutations, the research found. Along with their exposure history, the findings suggest that they were infected as part of the broader White House outbreak, said Trevor Bedford, a geneticist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington who led the research team.

“These mutations that are possessed by these viruses are quite rare in the United States,” Dr. Bedford said. “I am highly convinced that these viruses come from the same outbreak or cluster based on their genomes.”

The study, which has been posted online but not yet peer reviewed or published in a science journal, followed academic protocols that require genetic samples to be anonymous. Mr. Shear and Mr. Drago chose to disclose their identities for this article.

Viruses constantly mutate, picking up tiny, accidental alterations

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Study Finds AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 Vaccine Follows Genetic Instructions | Top News

LONDON (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s

Oxford COVID-19 vaccine accurately follows the genetic instructions programmed into it by its developers to successfully provoke a strong immune response, according to a detailed analysis carried out by independent UK scientists.

“The vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness,” said David Matthews, an expert in virology from Bristol University, who led the research.

AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University researchers, is seen as a frontrunner in the race to produce a vaccine to protect against COVID-19.

The first data from late-stage large-scale clinical trials being conducted in several countries around the world, including Brazil, the United States and Britain, are expected to be released before the end of the year.

The vaccine – known either as ChAdOx1 or AZD1222 – is made by taking a common cold virus called an adenovirus from chimpanzees and deleting about 20% of the virus’s instructions. This means it is impossible for the vaccine to replicate or cause disease in humans.

The Bristol researchers’ focus was to assess how often and how accurately the vaccine is copying and using the genetic instructions programmed into it by its designers. These instructions detail how to make the spike protein from the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

Once the spike protein is made, the immune system reacts to it, training the immune system to identify a real COVID-19 infection.

“This is an important study as we are able to confirm that the genetic instructions underpinning this vaccine … are correctly followed when they get into a human cell,” Matthews said in a statement about the work.

His team’s research was not peer reviewed by other scientists, but was published as a preprint before review.

(Reporting by Sarah Young and Kate Kelland, editing by Alistair Smout)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Genetic Ancestry, Discover DNA Relatives

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