Abbott strikes companion Dx deal with AstraZeneca for severe asthma therapy

Abbott ($ABT) is teaming up with biotech heavyweight AstraZeneca ($AZN) to develop companion diagnostic tests for the company's investigational asthma therapy, a potentially fruitful alliance as Abbott rides the tailwinds of promising diagnostic sales.

Under the terms of the deal, Abbott will develop and market blood tests with AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit that measure serum levels of periostin and DPP4 (dipeptidyl peptidase-4), proteins that could act as biomarkers of severe asthma. The company will develop the diagnostics in tandem with MedImmune's Phase III trial of tralokinumab, an experimental therapy for adults and teens with an uncontrollable form of the disease, Abbott said in a statement. No companion diagnostic blood tests have been approved yet for use in asthma, but the partnership could yield lucrative results as the companies chase an untapped niche.

"This partnership with Abbott to develop companion diagnostics for tralokinumab is an important step in delivering on our ambition to bring innovative options for patients who continue to suffer with severe asthma," Bing Yao, head of MedImmune's Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity Innovative Medicines unit, said in a statement. "We anticipate that physicians will ultimately use these tests to better identify patients likely to benefit most from tralokinumab to bring their condition under control. We are on the cusp of a new era in personalized healthcare, one which will see great improvements for patients treated with respiratory medicines."

The deals comes on the heels of more good tidings for Abbott, as it racks up promising numbers for its diagnostics unit and inks deals to expand its industry reach. The company's diagnostics sales shot up more than 3% to $4.7 billion in 2014, padding Abbott's revenues even as it faced declines in medical device sales. And the company is continuing on an upward trajectory this year, scoring in January a bladder cancer biomarker deal with the Institut Curie and getting an FDA nod for its early pregnancy blood test last month.

This is not Abbott's first foray into companion diagnostics. The company last May joined forces with Idera Pharmaceuticals ($IDRA) to develop a companion diagnostic test for a lymphoma/autoimmune drug in clinical testing. Neither side revealed financial details, but the companies plan to create an in vitro companion diagnostic test for Idera's IMO-8400 in clinical trials to treat patients with certain genetic iterations of B-cell lymphoma.

- read the release

Special Report: The top companies in med tech: 2014 revenue results - Abbott Laboratories

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