Liquid biopsy open database created under Cancer Moonshot, as pharma joins the fray

red blood cells

Twenty stakeholders, including major biopharmas, diagnostic players and academic institutions, have committed to creating what they expect will be the largest liquid biopsy open database for cancer genomic profiling data. It’s part of the broader ongoing Cancer Moonshot effort led by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The newest component is known as the Blood Profiling Atlas Pilot. It’s intended to serve as the basis for the development of blood-based cancer diagnostic technology standards. It aims to have sufficient controls that the FDA will recognize the database as a valid source of scientific evidence.

The initial participants said they will contribute raw data sets from 13 different studies for further analyses. These data will span circulating tumor cells, circulating tumor DNA, and exosome assays, as well as clinical diagnoses, treatment history and outcomes, sample preparation and handling protocols.


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Among the major biopharmas, AstraZeneca ($AZN), Eli Lilly ($LLY), Pfizer ($PFE), Novartis ($NVS), and Roche’s Genentech ($RHHBY) are all participating in that data effort. Specifically, Lilly will be profiling exosomes for mRNA and noncoding RNA expression. It plans to share sample preparation methods, next-generation quantitative PCR-based methods, and next generation sequencing-based methods as well as data related to disease characterization through gene expression analysis.

"Liquid biopsies are going to be critical in the future to both identify specific patients for targeted therapies and to follow their treatment to better determine response to therapy,” said Lilly medical fellow Dr. Andrew Schade in a statement. “We hope knowledge gained from our research efforts in this area will help to accelerate the development of safe and effective blood profiling diagnostic technologies that help people with cancer."

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) Foundation is donating $25 million over the next two years toward a separate research project specifically designed to help alleviate cancer inequities. It has awarded the first five grants, including a $10 million one to underserved cancer care group Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes).

Celgene ($CELG) is pitching in with an associated crowdsourced challenge that will be run by Sage Bionetworks. It’s backing a $150,000 challenge designed to bring a diverse group of scientists together to share predictive models in an open-access environment.

Diagnostic players Guardant Health, Thermo Fisher Scientific ($TMO), Epic Sciences and Foundation Medicine ($FMI) are also contributing data to the atlas. For its part, Guardant said it would offer data from 500 lung cancer patients who had been tested with its Guardant 360.

"Our goal, since we started Guardant Health, was to decode cancer to conquer cancer,” said Guardant co-founder and President AmirAli Talasaz in a statement. “Having built the world's largest database of advanced-cancer profiling information, we are now in a position to use this information to help fulfill the Moonshot."


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