Quest and Memorial Sloan-Kettering team for next-generation gene sequencing

Quest Diagnostics ($DGX) and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York are teaming up on a project designed to eventually improve diagnosis and treatment options for various cancers. Long-range, they have set their sights on developing a broad gene-sequencing diagnostic test.

Neither Quest nor Memorial Sloan-Kettering disclosed financial terms. But their deal pairs up complementary technology, initially focused on a service for physicians. New Jersey-based Quest contributes its newly launched OncoVantage lab-developed test designed to molecularly characterize solid tumors. Memorial Sloan-Kettering, in turn, supplies expertise to give context for mutations identified by the OncoVantage test, which is used on tumor biopsies. That knowledge comes from extensive databases of gene mutations tied to various cancers and drug treatments developed and tested by MSK researchers, according to the deal announcement.

Plans call for launching a co-branded service for physicians who order the OncoVantage test starting this summer. Eventually, Quest and Memorial Sloan-Kettering will expand their research, build the gene mutation databases and pursue clinical trials with a goal of improving the diagnostic and treatment process for patients with breast, prostate, colon, lung and other solid tumor cancers. Specifically, that means developing a new test at Quest that screens for hundreds of genes, versus the 34 OncoVantage can handle right now. It could launch by spring 2015, Quest and Memorial Sloan-Kettering said.

Quest Diagnostics CEO Steve Rusckowski

Quest President and CEO Steve Rusckowski said in a statement that the deal combines his company's "broad market reach" with Memorial Sloan-Kettering's "deep experience in cancer care and molecular science."

The combination will help clinicians better identify patients who could benefit most from existing treatments or gain from clinical trial participation, Craig Thompson, president and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, said in a statement.

"The needs of tomorrow's patients will be addressed by the deeper knowledge base we are building and its potential to drive the basic science needed to discover new therapies," Thompson said.

Beyond joint partnerships, Quest is launching new products in an effort to bring back aggressive revenue expansion. In April, Quest rolled out a new line of epilepsy tests designed to identify specific subsets of epilepsy. The company produced $1.8 billion in revenue during the 2014 first quarter, 2.3% lower than during the same period in 2013. Net income also declined, underscoring a market challenged by competition and a tougher reimbursement climate. Quest continues to pursue a revamp/reorganization designed to restore growth.

- read the release

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