Qiagen cozies up to Lilly for third CDx partnership

Qiagen has again teamed up with Eli Lilly to develop a companion diagnostic on its Rotor-Gene Q MDx platform.--Courtesy of Qiagen

With the success of Erbitux and its patient-steering companion diagnostic fresh in mind, Qiagen ($QGEN) and Eli Lilly ($LLY) have struck up their third partnership, reuniting to match genomic knowhow with drug development expertise.

Under their latest deal, Qiagen will again concoct a customized molecular diagnostic test to identify ideal patients for one of Lilly's in-development cancer compounds. The two companies are divulging little more than that, saying the new project is part of a master collaboration agreement signed by both earlier this year.

The duo has already well established its approach thanks to last year's high-profile tandem approvals of cancer treatment Erbitux and a Qiagen companion test. The drug, which Lilly co-developed with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), is designed to treat KRAS-negative forms of colorectal cancer, and, with Qiagen's mutation-spotting test in tow, the targeted treatment won over the FDA. In 2011, the two partnered up on an investigative JAK2 inhibitor from Lilly, working to hammer out a complementary diagnostic for the blood cancer-related gene mutation.

Qiagen has become a go-to diagnostic partner for drug developers with eyes on targeted treatments, and the company is now juggling 15 biotech projects, including partnerships with the likes of Boehringer Ingelheim, Bayer, Pfizer ($PFE) and Amgen ($AMGN). And there's little mystery to his company's popularity among drugmakers, Qiagen CEO Peer Schatz said, as, time and again, quality companion diagnostics lead to faster FDA approvals.

"Using standardized, well-validated processes to develop and commercialize companion diagnostics reduces the risks in drug development for pharma companies," Schatz said in a statement. "Once approved, our Therascreen tests have a ready path to commercial adoption, since laboratories around the world have embraced Qiagen's efficient QIAsymphony automation platform."

And the company's partnering success is well-reflected on its balance sheet. Last quarter, Qiagen boosted year-over-year revenue by 6% to $323.8 million and increased net income 39% to $40.7 million.

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