Healthcare Business News
Dr. Glenn Steele, Geisinger’s president and CEO

Geisinger partners with Regeneron on analyzing human genome

By Beth Kutscher
Posted: January 13, 2014 - 3:30 pm ET

Geisinger Health System has formed a partnership with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals that will be one of the largest collaborations to date to sequence and analyze the human genome.

Regeneron will use the samples to develop targeted therapies. But for Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger, which is both a healthcare provider and a payer through its health plans, the partnership also is an opportunity to further its efforts in population health—for example, by using personalized medicine to tailor treatments and avoid expensive, unnecessary tests and procedures.

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Geisinger, which serves about 3 million people in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, will collect samples from more than 100,000 patients during a five-year period.

“It's a perfect experimental venue to try to take costs out,” said Dr. Glenn Steele, Geisinger's president and CEO. Steele added that Geisinger is in a “long-term marriage” with a significant portion of its patients because its hospitals treat multiple generations of their families.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Steele confirmed that Geisinger would be able to share in Regeneron's success if it commercializes drugs that come out of the effort. In addition, having a long-term library of genetic data will be “hugely valuable” as providers transition to value-based medicine, he said.

The samples provided to Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Regeneron for sequencing and genotyping will be stripped of identifying patient data. Geisinger, though, will still be able to link the findings to individual patients.

The findings could be used to tailor screening tests to patients with certain genetic mutations, for example, or to choose among the growing number of targeted cancer therapies and prevent patients from being exposed to toxicity from drugs from which they are unlikely to benefit.

With the current state of cancer treatment, “you consider it a victory if 25% of patients benefit,” Steele said. “It's not just the financial expense—it's the aggravation.”

For Regeneron, which has three approved products on the market for eye disease, cancer and a rare inflammatory condition, the collaboration will provide it with the longitudinal data to build its pipeline of drug compounds. “The giant spectrum is an enormous piece of real estate to tackle,” said Dr. Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron's president and CEO. “We need a way to operate on this whole spectrum.”

Regeneron recorded $1.5 billion in net revenue for the first nine months of 2013, most of it generated by sales of the macular degeneration drug Eylea.

Follow Beth Kutscher on Twitter: @MHbkutscher

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