Dx Digest: Liquid Biotech aces bladder and lung cancer test study; Big-name investors sink funds into liquid biopsy

Welcome to Dx Digest, where FierceMedicalDevices highlights the highs and sometimes lows of the past week in the diagnostics industry. Liquid biopsy upstart Liquid Biotech got $1 million for positive clinical results for its lung and bladder cancer test. Big-name investors including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are sinking money into liquid biopsy, the diagnostic industry's new cash cow. Last but certainly not least, health diagnostics company Avioq is selling out to a Chinese company for $65 million. Read on for the details. And as always, feel free to contact us with any comments or questions. -- Emily Wasserman (email | Twitter)

Liquid Biotech gets $1M for successful bladder and lung cancer test study

Philadelphia-based Liquid Biotech got $1 million richer this week after unveiling promising preclinical and clinical study data for its bladder and lung cancer tests. Partner Oncolys Biopharma ($OBP) ponied up the cash after Liquid Biotech showed that the test, which it developed with the University of Pennsylvania, can pinpoint circulating tumor cells found in the blood of cancer patients.

The test specifically picks up on an enzyme called telomerase that is expressed in cancerous cells. Now, with positive results in tow, the company is aiming for U.S. regulatory approval for its product. "We have several other clinical studies ongoing and as we accumulate more data we plan on working towards submission of a 510(k) to FDA in the near future," Liquid Biotech CEO Philip Sass said in a statement. Release

Top investors sink funds into liquid biopsy with grand plans in mind

Liquid biopsy is the latest trend in diagnostics, and top VCs and big investors are sinking cash into the industry, which they see as holding billion-dollar potential. As Bloomberg reports, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Arch Venture Partners and others are sinking funds into companies developing less invasive, superscreening tests for cancer.

About 38 companies including Guardant Health, Trovagene, Foundation Medicine ($FMI) and Illumina's new liquid biopsy spinoff, Grail, are working on liquid biopsy tests. Illumina ($ILMN) CEO Jay Flatley said earlier this year when Grail was announced that the market for liquid biopsy could reach $100 billion to $200 billion.

Some analysts set this number lower. The liquid biopsy market will most likely reach $30 billion, Piper Jaffray analyst William Quirk said in a report last year.

And companies could face obstacles on the road of innovation, some critics say. Developing an early-detection blood test for cancer is a project in the making that requires time, trials and cash. "The path will be long until we can make any reasonable claims,'' Cyrus Hedvat, director of the molecular pathology laboratory at NYU Langone Medical Center, told the news outlet. But "(t)hat never stopped any company from marketing." Story

North Carolina diagnostics company sells out to Chinese company for $65M

Flailing Research Triangle Park, NC-based diagnostics outfit Avioq is selling out to Chinese precision medicine company Shandong Oriental Ocean Sci-tech for $65 million. Oriental Ocean already has grand plans for the company, which brought in $1.2 million in 2014.

The Chinese company wants to increase Avioq's sales to $4 million in 2016 and $12 million by 2018. The acquisition also fits in with Oriental Ocean's precision medicine plans, as it leverages Avioq's in vitro and genetic diagnostics know-how to grow business.

"With critical techniques, our service capabilities and the number of customers in the precision medical industry will keep increasing," Oriental Ocean Board Secretary Yu Dehai said in a statement. Story | Statement