Seven Bridges Genomics has launched a new subsidiary, the Unified Patient Network (UPN), to facilitate clinical research and collaboration between participating health systems and biopharma companies. The UPN will combine de-identified sequencing data and EHR content for five million patients and allow biopharma companies to license cohorts from that dataset for research.
Licensing fees from biopharma will fund the network. “The Unified Patient Network is designed to leverage Seven Bridges unique capabilities in building ecosystems and bringing stakeholders together,” William Moss, CEO of Seven Bridges, told Clinical Research News. The UPN will harmonize 30x whole genome coverage for patients that opt-in with electronic health records from large health systems across the country. The UPN’s objective is to include full datasets on five million participants within five years.
Technical partners include Genome Medical, Amazon Web Services, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Illumina and others. Moss serves as CEO of the UPN; David Ledbetter was named the Chief Clinical and Research Officer. Ledbetter was previously executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Geisinger Health System where he was the principal investigator for the MyCode biobank and precision health program that exceeded 175,000 patients with exome sequence data linked to rich, longitudinal EHR and other clinical data.
“What makes the Unified Patient Network unique compared to any of the other programs that are out there that might be seen as somewhat similar is our focus on whole genome context,” Moss explained. We are providing—from a genomic perspective—30x coverage whole genome data across the entire genome, utilizing similar techniques that we used in producing the content for the UK Biobank.” Connecting Health Systems, Patients, Pharma The UPN will operate as a collaborative group of nonprofit academic health centers.
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and its affiliated health system, BJC HealthCare, is the first academic health system announced as a UPN member. Two others will be announced in the coming weeks, Moss said. These first three health system partners represent an addressable patient population of 20 million.
The UPN will operate across many disease states and therapeutic areas, including rare, complex neurodegenerative, psychiatric and autoimmune diseases and disorders, as well as cancer, cardiology and common diseases such as diabetes. Patients who volunteer for clinical research studies conducted as part of the UPN will need to provide informed consent to participate. A central institutional review board (IRB) will approve all studies. From within the UPN, Biopharma companies can seek specific cohorts of patient data.
“Biopharma can actually tell us who they want,” Moss said. “They can say: we’re looking for 2,000 individuals with this type of cancer, who have received this treatment, and have either been responsive or non-responsive—whatever attributes those are.” Biopharma has the option of either using the deidentified EHR and genomic data from within the UPN, or re-contacting individual patients for more in-depth study through their health systems and physicians. The UPN does not have the capability of deidentifying patient records, Moss said.
Those keys reside with the health systems, and physicians make initial contact with a patient. “A big part of what we’re doing is we’re embracing the health systems and the relationships between the health systems, the healthcare providers, and the patients,” Moss said. “We work with the health systems and the healthcare providers to find the participants who meet the needs of the biopharma, and they’re invited to participate in a research study.”
Data licensing fees from biopharma support the UPN and go back to individual health systems to fund their own research as well. Companies have a six-to-nine-month embargo period on the data, Moss said, before it returns to the UPN and can be licensed and used by others. “After the embargo period, that data becomes able to be licensed by other biopharmas. More importantly, that data becomes available to each of the health system members in order to enable them to enhance their precision medicine research and to actually be participating as learning health systems in precision medicine,” he said. The Data Plan Only de-identified genomic and clinical EHR content will be made available via the database.
The UPN is leveraging the secure Seven Bridges research and development ecosystem as the interoperability infrastructure for the community. The ARIA scientific intelligence system will enable exploration and analysis for complex cohort stratification across populations of millions of patients. Member health systems will be provided with a base-tier license of the Seven Bridges platform, Moss added.
Content will be made available only to credentialed researchers as part of IRB-approved research studies, as mutually agreed to by the UPN and the health system members, by leveraging Seven Bridges’ proven security, authentication and authorization protocols and technologies. Patients who previously provided consent for the UPN can opt at any time to have their de-identified genetic and clinical data removed from the network’s database.
Counseling CommitmentAnother foundational partner, Genome Medical, will provide genetics and genomics counseling for both participants and physicians. Sequencing findings will be returned to participants—the specific list of returned results is still being decided, Moss said—and Genome Medical will also handle peer-to-peer counseling for physicians whose patients have new results.“This is about bringing along the population and the physician, and that’s why we include peer-to-peer counseling,” Moss said, “so that the physician can learn from a genetics expert as to what are the meanings of the results and how does that get integrated into a care plan.”