Sutter Health, UPMC, and DNAnexus Initiate Collaboration to Improve Personalized Treatments for People with Multiple Sclerosis

First large-scale clinico-genomic MS study by leading healthcare system to advance research by building multi-dimensional datasets from a diverse population of more than 3,000 patients

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. & SACRAMENTO, Calif.--()--DNAnexus, Inc., and the not-for-profit Sutter Health network today announced the first large-scale clinico-genomic multiple sclerosis (MS) research study conducted by a leading healthcare system.

As part of the collaboration, scientists at the Sutter Health Center for Precision Medicine will input de-identified clinico-genomic datasets from more than 3,000 patients to the DNAnexus Apollo™ Platform, enabling rapid analysis, visualization, and collaboration within a secure environment that complies with rigorous patient confidentiality requirements. The Genome Center at UPMC, a leading non-profit health system based in Pittsburgh, will generate clinical-grade genomic data from samples contributed by the program’s participants.

Beginning in May 2019, researchers at Sutter will enroll more than 500 MS patients in the first phase of the new study, which is designed to collect electronic health record (EHR) data, patient-reported outcomes, imaging data, and blood samples in addition to whole exome sequencing (WES) performed by UPMC. DNAnexus bioinformaticians will process WES data through analysis pipelines and link the resulting genetic data with extensive clinical data on the DNAnexus Apollo Platform. Sutter Health clinicians, researchers, and approved collaborators will use the platform to assess patients’ clinical and genomic features that correlate with MS subtypes, disability progression, staging, symptoms, MRI changes, and differential response to disease-modifying therapies (DMTs).

“Datasets generated in a real-world setting will propel Sutter Health to the forefront of MS research worldwide,” says Gregory Tranah, PhD, Director of the Center for Precision Medicine at Sutter Health. “Collaborating with DNAnexus allows access to cutting-edge bioinformatics tools to better understand our clinically meaningful ‘big data.’ This is an important step to advance precision medicine efforts across Sutter and, ultimately, to improve treatments for people with MS in our community and the millions of people affected with the disease worldwide.”

“The UPMC Genome Center was created to support ground-breaking initiatives like this that strive to transform patient care. Our fully automated, CLIA/CAP-certified center provides the environment to generate high-quality genomic data for Sutter Health and its patients,” said Annerose Berndt, PhD, Vice President of Clinical Genomics and Director of the UPMC Genome Center.

MS is a potentially disabling immunologic disease that affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide, including more than 450,000 people in the U.S., where approximately 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.1 Despite new research, the specific immunologic cause remains unknown and the disease has no cure. Most people who develop MS manage a relapsing-remitting course of the illness with DMTs to slow disease progression.

“With its diverse patient population and powerful EHR data on long-term MS patients, the team at Sutter Health is poised to lead this next era of precision medicine for MS,” said Richard Daly, Chief Executive Officer of DNAnexus. “We are looking forward to working with Sutter and UPMC on this MS study and other real-world data projects for additional complex disorders in the future.”

With this study, DNAnexus launches its new Clinico-Genomic Data Solution, a program that addresses the demand for high-quality, longitudinal, disease-specific datasets by establishing a network of healthcare partners dedicated to improving screening, diagnosis, and treatment pathways for complex diseases. The network facilitates an ongoing data stream hosted on the DNAnexus Apollo Platform to support precision health initiatives and drug discovery programs at leading cancer centers, academic institutions, healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical companies.


1. National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2019.

About Sutter Health

From physician offices to hospitals, to outpatient care centers and home services, Sutter Health proudly supports the more than 3 million people in our care—nearly 1 percent of the U.S. population, in one of the most diverse and innovative regions in the world. Sutter Health is more than 60,000 people strong thanks to its integrated network of physicians, employees and volunteers. Rooted in Sutter Health’s not-for-profit mission, these team members partner to deliver exceptional care that feels personal. Sutter team members adopt new technologies, make novel discoveries and embrace creative thinking to help patients and communities achieve their best health. From its street nurse program that provides check-ups for homeless people, to telemedicine-aided specialist consultations, to walk-in care clinics, to smart glass technology, the Sutter Health team goes beyond traditional models to make care more convenient and to nurture and empower people throughout their medical journey.

For more information about the Sutter Health network visit: | | |

About the UPMC Genome Center

The UPMC Genome Center (UGC) provides high-throughput, next-generation sequencing services and solutions to UPMC and its academic and commercial partners in a fully automated CLIA/CAP-certified laboratory environment. UGC has the capacity to support high-volume clinical and research sequencing for a variety of applications, including whole genome sequencing, whole exome, and bulk and single-cell RNA sequencing. Data processing and storage is supported by an integrated and completely cloud-based infrastructure allowing for competitive turnaround times.

The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 87,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.5 million-member Insurance Services Division. As UPMC works in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals. UPMC Enterprises is the innovation and commercialization arm, and UPMC International provides hands-on health care and management services for partners around the world. For more information, go to

About DNAnexus

DNAnexus, the leader in biomedical informatics and data management, has created the global network for genomics and other biomedical data, operating in 33 countries including North America, Europe, China, Australia, South America, and Africa. The secure, scalable, and collaborative DNAnexus Platform helps thousands of researchers across a spectrum of industries — biopharmaceutical, bioagricultural, sequencing services, clinical diagnostics, government, and research consortia — accelerate their genomics programs. For more information on DNAnexus, please visit or follow the company @DNAnexus.


Hannah Hurdle

Release Summary

DNAnexus and the Sutter Health network announced the first large-scale clinico-genomic MS research study conducted by a leading healthcare system


Hannah Hurdle