Celgene taps Cypher Genomics to spot biomarkers in data sets

Celgene ($CELG) has struck a deal with Cypher Genomics to boost its ability to find biomarkers. The agreement gives Celgene access to Cypher's Coral technology, a resource it thinks could help it identify the signatures of novel biomarkers in genomic data.

Neither party has publicly attached a dollar value to the deal, which Cypher sees as the first step toward a broader collaboration with Celgene. For now, the focus is on biomarkers. San Diego, CA-based Cypher has developed its Coral technology to sift through the small data sets commonly generated in Phase II trials in search of rare variant sets that can lead to companion diagnostics. The promise of the approach led to Cypher striking a deal with Illumina ($ILMN) in 2014--in which the sequencing giant agreed to promote Coral through its sales team--and has now lured Celgene.

"Cypher has shown through multiple validation studies that our Coral technology can find novel biomarker signatures in genomic data from small clinical studies. We look forward to working with Celgene on this first project and identifying additional ways we can incorporate our genome interpretation expertise to help improve clinical research efficiency," Cypher CEO Ashley Van Zeeland said in a statement. The approach is underpinned by the Mantis system Cypher created to help clinical labs identify variants.

The deal is one of several struck by Celgene in the biomarker-discovery space in recent years. In 2011, the drug developer inked a $45 million deal to access Quanticel Pharmaceuticals' biomarker discovery capabilities and bought the business outright in April for $100 million upfront and $385 million in milestones. Between those two deals, Celgene signed another $45 million deal, this time to team with NanoString Technologies on the development of a biomarker companion diagnostic for Revlimid. 

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