Lilly teams with PrimeraDx to develop companion diagnostics

As big-time drugmakers continue to partner with (or outright buy) diagnostics firms, Eli Lilly ($LLY) has struck a deal with PrimeraDx to develop companion diagnostics for cancer drugs and other therapies.

Lilly and PrimeraDx didn't get into the agreement's specifics, but the multiyear deal will see the two collaborating on multiplex assays using PrimeraDx's ICEPlex platform. In the early going, Lilly wants to focus on oncology, its diagnostics chief said, but, from there, the two will move on to other therapeutic areas in Lilly's pipeline.

Inking a deal with Lilly is a validation of PrimeraDx's mission, CEO Matt McManus said in a statement, and Lilly believes the company's platform is ideal for getting in-development drugs onto the market. "The unique ability of the ICEPlex System to combine multiple DNA and RNA biomarkers into a single multiplex assay could prove invaluable in our drive to develop companion diagnostics for crucial assets in our clinical pipeline," Lilly diagnostics director Andrew Schade said.

ICEPlex combines two diagnostic technologies--polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and capillary electrophoresis--into one benchtop unit, allowing for the quick development of multimodal assays in the clinic. The company sells its system to labs but is also always looking for pharmaceutical partnerships, and the Lilly deal may work to spur more of them down the road.

The value of companion diagnostics has hardly been lost on big-time drugmakers of late. Some are spending serious money buying up Dx firms--like Agilent ($A) with its $2.2 billion purchase of Dako--while others are beefing up their homespun operations--including Roche ($RHHBY), which is pouring $300 million into its Indianapolis diagnostics HQ.

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