Genentech, Pfizer, Celgene are Epic Sciences' new companion Dx allies

Once again, a diagnostics startup is proving to be an alluring partner in the advance toward personalized medicine. Epic Sciences, which launched just in 2008, says it sealed collaboration deals with 6 pharmaceutical companies looking to develop companion diagnostics for cancer drugs.

San Diego-based Epic remains in "stealth" mode and declined to discuss financial terms. The company also did not directly announce the names of its new development partners. But a company spokesperson noted that three of the partners--Genentech, Pfizer ($PFE) and Celgene ($CELG)--have previously disclosed their collaboration deals with Epic.

Such an arrangement represents a huge validation for Epic even at its early stage. The company spun out of Peter Kuhn's lab at the Scripps Research Institute, according to the spokesperson, and is also pursuing research with the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, among other partners.

All the buzz at Epic swirls around its diagnostic technology designed to identify and quantify circulating tumor cells and other rare cancer cells. The company says its collaborations will focus on 12 clinical trials involving more than 40 separate projects that measure 18 different protein or genomic tumor markers on circulating tumor cells. Clinical work will take place in the U.S., Europe and Asia and focus on prostate, lung, breast, pancreatic and ovarian cancers, Epic explained. In pursuing these partnerships, the pharmaceutical companies are looking to develop a companion diagnostic that could be marketed in tandem with a targeted cancer therapy.

In recent weeks, diagnostics firm Saladax Biomedical expanded a partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) to develop companion diagnostics for future BMS therapies. MDxHealth also signed a similar arrangement with Merck KGaA to develop cancer diagnostics.

- read the release

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