A nonprofit just announced a 23andMe-like genomic sequencing model for a rare cancer—but it’s free
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The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is launching a new effort to provide cancer patients with personalized recommendations for dealing with their disease. The project, called CureCloud, resembles the model used by 23andMe and similar genomic sequencing companies, but it would be provided for free, the organization tells Fortune.
MMRF founder Kathy Giusti was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1996. In the nearly 25 years since, she’s dedicated her life to helping patients with the rare blood cancer, which can weaken bones and the immune system at large. Giusti spent years as a pharmaceutical executive at companies like G.D. Searle and Merck. The combination of experiences has informed her strategy for spurring treatments for the rare cancer, which afflicts about 33,000 Americans per year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The new CureCloud project amounts to a “crescendo of disruption” when it comes to multiple myeloma treatment, Giusti tells Fortune. After a blood draw at home by a phlebotomist, i.e. a blood lab technician, patients will receive a personalized report with advice on how to deal with their disease via the advent of genomic sequencing.
“With our support, anyone can now get sequenced,” says Giusti. “It doesn’t matter what your economic status is, we will sequence you if you raise your hand.”
The process was developed with the help of the Broad Institute and other partners, focused on creating a blood draw to make the genomic sequencing simple. The general approach speaks to Giusti’s longstanding belief that breaking down research silos, especially by expanding access and slashing costs, is critical to developing new cancer drugs.
“Patients get their own report sent back to them, and their clinician gets information as well,” she says. “So imagine the conversations the patients can have with their clinicians at that point.”
The CureCloud initiative required some $30 million to $40 million to fund and seeks to sequence the genome of 5,000 myeloma patients across the country. Those patients can participate in research programs meant to help discover new treatment options for different types of myeloma while also gaining access to a personalized dashboard that tells them how other volunteers with a similar form of cancer are faring and what works best for them.
Since the MMRF’s formation, a dozen drugs for multiple myeloma have been approved, largely with the help of the organization’s shared and public data bank, and, according to Giusti, “we tripled the life spans of our patients.”