French cancer Dx company born after management buyout at Qiagen unit

Vincent Fert, CEO of HalioDx

HalioDx, a new company focused on cancer companion diagnostics, is kicking off operations after a management buyout at Qiagen's ($QGEN) Marseille subsidiary.

The company will comprise Qiagen Marseille's managers and its 75 employees, with CEO Vincent Fert at the helm. HalioDx will develop cancer assays such as Immunoscore, a next-generation test that improves colon cancer prognosis, and will forge collaborations with "key biopharma players" to create immuno-oncology companion diagnostics to predict patient response to several immuno-oncology solid tumor treatments, the company said in a statement.

HalioDx has worldwide licenses on a broad portfolio of patents on immuno-oncology biomarkers, including several immune gene expression signatures. ImmunoScore was recently validated in a large international study, and the company is shooting for CE-mark approval for the test in the next 18 months.

"Considering the strength and scientific value of our worldwide license portfolio, and the need for powerful prognostic and predictive biomarkers in immune-oncology, we are confident we will rapidly bring the Immunoscore into routine clinical practice for colon cancer, and validate innovative predictive immune companion diagnostics for solid tumors," Fert said in a statement. "With these immune-related assays, we will contribute to a new dimension of personalized medicine in oncology, and support clinicians and patients to identify the optimal anti-cancer treatment strategy."

The company recently raised €7.5 million ($8.2 million) in a Series A round, with MI Care, Sham Innovation Santé and Sofipaca contributing funds. HalioDx also counts Qiagen as its first partner, a potentially fruitful collaboration as the company leverages Qiagen's manufacturing and R&D prowess to build its portfolio.

A partnership with HalioDx also stands to benefit Qiagen, as it continues to expand in the field of companion diagnostics through more than 20 collaborative projects. Last year, the company announced it would team up with Novartis ($NVS) to develop tests for the company's drug portfolio. In May, Qiagen said it would join forces with Eli Lilly ($LLY) for the companies' fourth companion diagnostics project, building on the momentum of past collaborations to develop assay panels for cancer. The company recently struck a deal with Astellas Pharma to create companion diagnostics to go along with two of Astellas' cancer drugs.

- read HalioDx's statement (PDF)