Qiagen eyes companion diagnostics with cancer deals

Qiagen CEO Peer Schatz

Qiagen ($QGEN) has licensed a few a cancer biomarkers the company said will help expand its heft in the lucrative companion diagnostics world, targeting gene expressions that jibe with in-development therapies.

Through deals with Columbia University and Canada's BC Cancer Agency, Qiagen now has its hands on biomarkers for glioblastoma, lymphoma and other cancers, planning to spin them into diagnostic tests that can identify patients who could benefit from the next wave of targeted treatments.

Through the Columbia deal, Qiagen can develop molecular diagnostics for the FGFR-TACC fusion genes, whose expression marks glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain tumor, according to the company. From the BC Cancer Agency, Qiagen has acquired the rights to a biomarker for the Y641 mutation of the EZH2 gene, a lymphoma-related flaw targeted by drug developers like Constellation Pharmaceuticals and Epizyme ($EPZM).

Companion diagnostics are a key growth driver for Qiagen, CEO Peer Schatz said, and the company's personalized medicine business has swelled to about $100 million a year thanks to aggressive biomarker licensing and test development.

"In partnership with top pharmaceutical companies, we are translating genomic discoveries into standardized companion diagnostics to guide the use of targeted drugs," Schatz said in a statement. "Personalized healthcare is driving the growth of Qiagen as molecular information plays an increasingly important role in improving outcomes for patients."

And the company has a record of success pairing its tests with high-profile drugs. Last year, Qiagen won FDA approval for KRAS oncogene mutation assay, identifying patients for Erbitux, a cancer drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Eli Lilly ($LLY). The company is seeking FDA approval for an EGFR mutation test, matched with Boehringer Ingelheim's in-development afatinib, and Qiagen has inked similar deals with Pfizer ($PFE), Bayer and other Big Pharma heavyweights.

- read the announcement

Special Reports: Qiagen's KRAS RGQ PCR Kit - Top 10 device and diagnostic FDA approvals of 2012 | Top 10 experimental cancer drugs - 2013