Merck Serono, Illumina partner in the latest universal next-gen cancer diagnostic deal

Cancer diagnostics has long been defined by the aim of providing "personalized" and "precision" medicine to patients. But now the buzzword of the moment seems to be trending more toward "universal"--as the industry strives for an all-encompassing test that will mete out the best possible individual treatment protocols based on genomic data.

Illumina ($ILMN) and Merck Serono, the biopharma business of Merck KGaA, have partnered to develop a universal, next-generation sequencing oncology diagnostics deal. the financial details of the deal remain undisclosed.

This deal is separate from a similar deal that Illumina made last August with AstraZeneca ($AZN), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) company Janssen Biotech and Sanofi ($SNY). Also in September, Thermo Fisher ($TMO) went on to announce a comparable universal cancer genomic diagnostic deal with biopharma partners GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Pfizer ($PFE) that's focused specifically on solid tumors.

"Our collaboration with Illumina around next-generation sequencing will enable us to perform genome studies at a pace unheard of a few years ago, and could lead to the development of several diagnostics," Susan Herbert, Head of Global Business Development at Merck Serono, said in a statement.

The newly partnered pair is slated to develop and commercialize assays to detect and measure multiple variants that are relevant to supporting clinical testing. Illumina is already working with the Actionable Genome Consortium--a group founded last September to recommend standards for applying next-gen sequencing to cancer tumors.

Along with Illumina, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are all founding members of the Actionable Genome Consortium.

"This agreement is another step forward in realizing the promise of precision medicine," Illumina CMO Dr. Richard Klausner said in a statement. "The U.S. government's Precision Medicine Initiative, recently announced by President Obama, specifically outlines the need to expand genetically-based clinical trials as a key approach for developing better treatments for cancer."

- here is the release

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