Dx Digest: Myriad Genetics broadens its companion Dx footprint with new deals; Two Texas hospitals develop rapid Zika test

Welcome to Dx Digest, where FierceMedicalDevices highlights the highs and sometimes lows of the past week in the diagnostics industry. Myriad Genetics struck a pair of companion diagnostics deals with pharma heavyweights Merck and AbbVie. Ambry Genetics cut the ribbon on a new genetic testing lab. And Zika test development got a boost after two Texas hospitals said that they are working on rapid diagnostics for the virus. Read on for the details. And as always, feel free to contact us with any comments or questions. -- Emily Wasserman (email | Twitter)

Myriad expands footprint in companion Dx with new biopharma deals

Myriad Genetics ($MYGN) chalked up a couple more wins in the companion diagnostics field. The company said that it will work with Merck ($MRK) and biotech Tesaro, and separately with AbbVie ($ABBV), to develop companion diagnostics for the drugmakers' investigational therapies.

Under the terms of the Merck/Tesaro deal, scientists in clinical trials will use Myriad's tests to see how well breast and ovarian cancer patients respond to the companies' treatment. The combo drug includes Tesaro's PARP inhibitor (niraparib) and Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy, Keytruda. "Our goal is to use Myriad's assays to help enrich for those patients who will respond to the treatment and have the best chance for success," Tesaro COO Mary Lynne Hedley said in a statement.

Myriad also inked a separate deal with AbbVie, which will use the company's tests to identify patients with non-small cell lung cancer who are a good fit for its investigational therapy. Neither side is revealing financial details, but the deal could go a long way toward improving outcomes for cancer patients, Myriad CSO Jerry Lanchbury said in a statement.

"As a company committed to innovation in the field of oncology, this collaboration with AbbVie enables us to use our proprietary companion diagnostics to advance care for patients with lung cancer," Lanchbury said. "If we are successful, our companion diagnostics will identify more patients who may benefit from treatment with the combination of veliparib and chemotherapy." Tesaro statement | AbbVie release

Ambry Genetics unveils new genetic testing lab to ramp up operations

Bigger doesn't always mean better, but Ambry Genetics hopes the old adage rings true. The company recently cut the ribbon on its California-based "Super Lab," which includes 65,000 square feet of space to accommodate Ambry's ambitious plans for growth.

The new lab is four times larger than Ambry's previous labs and will let the company triple the number of patient samples that it processes each day, it said in a statement. Eventually, the lab could increase capacity ninefold.

The move comes as demand rises for genetic testing. Companies that can deliver results faster often have a leg up on the competition, although accuracy is an issue that continues to plague the industry.

"The Ambry Super Lab was designed to include the best technologies in the industry, enabling us to provide healthcare providers with the fastest, most accurate results," Ambry COO and interim CSO Aaron Elliott said in a statement. "As a scientist, I am excited by the possibilities this lab offers in terms of improving our company's research capabilities and speeding up our ability to discover new genetic markers that may have significant implications for clinical practice." Release

Texas hospitals create speedy test for Zika virus

Scientists and public health officials are calling for rapid tests that can address the Zika epidemic. Now two Texas hospitals are joining the effort with quick tests for the virus.

Researchers at Texas Children's Hospital and Houston Methodist Hospital created a tool that can pinpoint the genetic material of the Zika virus. The test could potentially speed up diagnosis and treatment, the pair said in a statement.

The tool is only available at two hospitals, but the researchers want to expand access to the test. "With travel-associated cases of the Zika virus becoming more prevalent in the United States, coupled with the looming increase in mosquito exposure during spring and summer months, we must be prepared for a surge of Zika testing demand," Dr. James Versalovic, pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children's and leader of test development team, said in a statement.

Even though "everyone is jumping in to do something" about the Zika epidemic, researchers should tread lightly, Richard Kuhn, head of biological sciences at Purdue University, told Bloomberg last month.

"It's easy to do a few quick experiments and demonstrate some very promising kind of diagnostics or even something that might look like a vaccine. But to actually take that and really move it forward takes a huge amount of infrastructure and expertise and money," Kuhn said. Statement | Story