Bayer, Sysmex ally on companion Dx plan

Sysmex and Bayer struck a deal that takes personalized medicine yet another step forward. The Japanese diagnostics giant and the German drugmaker will develop companion diagnostic tests designed for targeted cancer treatments.

Neither side is disclosing financial details, but they'll carry out their agreement through subsidiaries. The plan is to pair blood-based companion diagnostic tests developed by Sysmex's newly-acquired Inostics division with targeted anti-cancer drugs advanced by Bayer HealthCare. 

Their partnership will rely heavily on Sysmex Inostics' BEAMing technology, which enables extremely sensitive diagnostics tests that can screen for circulating tumor DNA cast off into the bloodstream in a process known as a "liquid biopsy." It's meant to be a non-invasive alternative to conventional biopsies, where a piece of a tumor must be removed and tested. Sysmex snatched up Inostics in late September, which had been owned by Germany's Indivumed and has operations in Hamburg, Germany and Baltimore, MD.

Bayer HealthCare said it is focusing hard on advancing development of more customized cancer treatments, and that its deal with Sysmex Inostics will help make that happen.

"Blood-based DNA tests provide diagnostics options for cancer patients without tumor biopsies being necessary," noted Andreas Busch, head of Global Drug Discovery and member of Bayer HealthCare's Executive Committee, in a statement. "With this collaboration, we continue to strengthen our engagement in the field of personalized medicine with the aim of developing innovative therapies for cancer patients."

The liquid biopsy approach to diagnostics testing is becoming more commonplace. RainDance Technologies, for example, has its RainDrop Digital PCR system that performs liquid biopsies to help detect circulating nucleic acids. Scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles came up with the NanoVelcro Chip, which uses a related liquid biopsy approach to identify and then grab circulating tumor cells from the blood. And Boreal Genomics has also developed genomic research tools and other technology useful, in part, for noninvasive liquid biopsies.

Also, companion diagnostics are now an almost routine part of drug development. A companion diagnostic is designed to help spot a particular mutation or genetic quality that would screen for patients who'd respond best to a given treatment. And Sysmex is betting its deal with Bayer will fuel major growth for the company in the companion diagnostics space.

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