North Shore partners with Miami health firm

BioReference Laboratories CEO Marc Grodman.

A research agreement between the North Shore-LIJ Health System and a Florida-based healthcare company could help doctors better predict susceptibility to cancer, cardiac conditions and neurological disorders before a person is even born.

North Shore-LIJ, which in January is rebranding as Northwell Health, this week announced a “strategic alliance” with the GeneDX division of Miami-based OPKO Health Inc., a diversified healthcare company with a number of subsidiaries. Among them is New Jersey-based BioReference Laboratories, a full-service diagnostics lab OPKO acquired in August.

The alliance will focus on genomic testing, molecular diagnostics and “genetic counseling,” according to North Shore-LIJ, with prenatal, postnatal and pediatric screenings assessing risks for inherited cancers, genetic cardiac abnormalities and various neurological disorders.

The research group will also perform genetic analysis of cancer cells to determine sensitivity to various pharmaceutical therapies.

Both sides will lend clinicians to the cause. Primary genomic testing will be done through OPKO’s GeneDx division, while North Shore Shore-LIJ supplies clinical data from one of the nation’s largest patient populations – more than 4 million patient contacts annually, according to the health system, which predicts “a variety of commercial collaborations” among the benefits of its OPKO partnership.

“The breadth of care provided by our health system gives us the opportunity to advance clinical knowledge through genomic testing,” North Shore-LIJ President and CEO Michael Dowling said in a statement. “Linking genomic information with clinical outcomes is critical to understanding, diagnosing and treating disease.”

To complete the strategic alliance, the two main entities are forming a new company — Northwell Genomic Alliance LLC — to feature a “shared data infrastructure” combining genomic data and detailed clinical information, all geared toward making new discoveries.

James Crawford, executive director of North Shore-LIJ’s laboratory services, cited “the promise of precision medicine” in not only granting patients access to “potentially life-saving tests,” but in evaluating the efficacy and clinical value of those tests.

BioReference Laboratories CEO Marc Grodman said North Shore-LIJ’s “visionary approach” to genomics – sequencing and resequencing DNA to analyze the function and structure of genomes, the complete DNA set with a single cell – made the health system the perfect place to apply OPKO’s expertise and experience.

“The leadership of North Shore-LIJ has … incorporated genomics in a coordinated, strategic manner throughout its health system,” Grodman said. “Our GeneDx and GenPath business units have extensive capabilities that will be leveraged in this alliance to further enhance North Shore-LIJ patient care, education and research.”

Through GeneDx, BioReference Laboratories and other subsidiaries, OPKO Health has already researched and commercialized a number of pharmaceuticals and healthcare products, including the 4Kscore prostate cancer test, the chemotherapy-induced nausea treatment VARUBI and hGH-CTP, a weekly human growth hormone injection distributed through Pfizer.

The Florida parent’s GeneDx and GenPath businesses are recognized globally as experts in rare and ultra-rare genetic disorders, and have provided advanced testing protocols to patients in more than 55 countries, according to OPKO Health.

Now ranked as the nation’s 14th-largest health system, North Shore-LIJ includes 21 hospitals, 450 outpatient physician practices and a vast network of skilled-nursing, home-care, rehabilitation, hospice and urgent-care facilities throughout the Greater New York region and beyond. With a workforce greater than 61,000 employees, the future Northwell Health is New York State’s largest private employer.