Roche snags a genomics startup with an eye on cancer R&D

Roche Diagnostics COO Roland Diggelmann

Roche ($RHHBY) bought up a Stanford University-founded upstart with a promising approach to tracking the spread of cancer, eyeing a new tool in its expansive oncology R&D efforts.

The company, CAPP Medical, has developed a screening technology that trawls blood for circulating tumor DNA, isolating and quantifying the genetic material to make inferences about a patient's cancer. That system has the potential to help drug developers find the ideal therapy for particular patients, according to Roche, and it could be used to monitor tumor response to therapy in clinical trials.

Founded in 2013, CAPP is based on work out of the lab of Stanford's Maximilian Diehn, using fine-tuned assays to profile tumors without the need for patient-specific optimization. That, according to the company, allows for rapid cancer detection, and Roche is betting CAPP's technology will come in handy in oncology trials.

"Roche believes focused and high-quality next-generation sequencing assays using simple blood draws have the potential to significantly advance the time of cancer diagnosis and change routine cancer diagnostic monitoring and may be highly cost-effective compared to today's current standard of using PET and CT imaging to monitor tumor progression," Roche Diagnostics COO Roland Diggelmann said in a statement.

Roche isn't disclosing how much it's paying for CAPP and its analysis platform.

In parallel with its industry-leading stable of oncology therapies, Roche has invested billions to better its understanding of cancer diagnosis. The Swiss company traded about $3.4 billion for Ventana Medical Systems in 2008 to get a bigger foothold in cancer detection and pair targeted therapies like Herceptin with tests designed to find their ideal recipients, and, in the ensuing years, each of Roche's high-profile targeted treatments has debuted alongside a companion diagnostic engineered to guide its use.

- read the statement