Myriad partners up with BioMarin for cancer diagnostics

Despite some ongoing patent battles and mounting legal trouble, Myriad Genetics ($MYGN) remains a heavy hitter in the world of cancer diagnostics, and now the Utah company has struck up a deal with drug developer BioMarin Pharmaceutical to use one of its molecular tests to develop a targeted cancer drug.

Under the agreement, BioMarin ($BMRN) will use Myriad's test for homologous recombination deficiency--a cancer-tied genetic malfunction--to identify targets and ideal patients for its in-development BMN-673. The early-phase drug is designed to treat advanced tumors with DNA-repair pathway deficiencies, inhibiting PARP enzymes to kill off malignant cells.

That's where Myriad comes in. Homologous recombination deficiency, or HRD, makes it difficult for a tumor to repair double-stranded DNA breaks, leaving it more susceptible to DNA-damaging drugs like BMN-673. The company's test, by identifying patients most likely to respond to therapy, has the potential to speed up the drug's development and produce some positive outcomes, Myriad Chief Scientific Officer Jerry Lanchbury said.

"The biology of cancer is complicated, and while the analysis of multiple gene targets may identify a subset of patients who will respond to PARP inhibitors, we need a more comprehensive test capable of identifying all patients who may benefit from treatment with PARP inhibitors or DNA-damaging agents," Lanchbury said in a statement. "While it is impossible to predict all of the genetic causes of DNA repair deficiency, our HRD test solves this problem by measuring the ultimate effect, which presents as a DNA scar."

The latest deal is Myriad's second HRD-related partnership, following an agreement with PharmaMar to use the test in its Phase II study of the cancer-targeting PM1183. Under an earlier deal, BioMarin is using Myriad's banner BRACAnalysis in its development of BMN-673 for breast cancer.

Meanwhile, the company is embroiled in an increasingly complicated legal scrum related to BRACAnalysis, used to detect gene mutations strongly linked to cancer development. Competitors began offering BRCA tests of their own after the Supreme Court invalidated some of Myriad's gene-specific patents last summer, but the company asserts that it still holds the rights to certain analysis processes and wants the new assays off the market. Now, the company's docket includes outgoing filings aimed at stopping its foes and incoming antitrust lawsuits claiming it's trying to monopolize cancer tests.

- read the statement

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