Natera joins forces with University College London for lung cancer study

Natera CEO Matthew Rabinowitz

Natera is lending its genetic testing technology to University College London (UCL) for a lung cancer study, furthering the company's cancer R&D push after its recent IPO.

Under the terms of the deal, UCL Cancer Institute will use Natera's PCR system in its TRACERx study to identify cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in samples. The study, which includes 840 patients, will look at how cancer evolves by sampling tumors before and after a patient has surgery. Samples will include multiple biopsies of tumor tissue and liquid biopsies of ctDNA in the blood, the company said in a statement, allowing researchers to see how a tumor changes over time.

UCL selected Natera for the study based on the performance of its PCR technology. The 2013 Fierce 15 company bills its massively multiplexed PCR (mmPCR) system as more sensitive than its rivals, as it can look at obscure point mutations and copy number variations in the blood. Natera has already made a name for itself by offering its technology for prenatal screening, but its work with UCL will help the company expand its footprint in cancer diagnostics, CEO Matthew Rabinowitz said in a statement.

"This collaboration fits perfectly with Natera's mission to transform how people diagnose and manage genetic disease, including lung cancer, which kills more people every year than any other form of cancer," Rabinowitz said. "We are pleased that Natera's technology was selected for this landmark study, and we believe it will provide a springboard for Natera's plans to develop and launch commercially available cfDNA-based diagnostics for cancer of the lung, breast and ovaries."

The announcement comes a little more than a week after Natera unveiled a $180 million IPO to support its R&D work and bolster its presence in cancer diagnostics. The company said it would use about $59.1 million in proceeds for working capital and general purposes, and would funnel another $100 million toward "continued investments in research and development for our core technology and development of our product offerings," according to its regulatory filing. Natera already counts its Panorama test for chromosomal abnormalities among its offerings, but is also planning to beef up development for its cell-free DNA-based tests for early detection and monitoring of cancer.

Ultimately, the company's tests could be used in about 1.1 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. each year, bringing in $6.6 billion annually, the company said in its filing.

- read Natera's statement

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