Thermo Fisher has made universal companion Dx development an official trend

In late 2014, the push to develop universal companion diagnostics to facilitate personal treatments for multiple cancers appears to be accelerating.

Thermo Fisher Scientific's ($TMO) Sept. 25 announcement of a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Pfizer ($PFE) to develop a companion diagnostic for solid tumors in multiple drug programs is a major deal. But it's just the latest plan for a "universal" companion diagnostic disclosed in recent months.

Just last month, Illumina ($ILMN) sealed agreements with AstraZeneca ($AZN), Janssen Biotech and Sanofi ($SNY) to pursue a universal gene-sequencing companion diagnostic test system focused on cancer. They envision a product that would use a multigene testing panel to help choose the best drugs for treating individual patients.

In April, diagnostics darling Foundation Medicine ($FMI), a 2012 FierceBiotech Fierce 15 company, inked an agreement to develop a companion diagnostic test to go with a Clovis Oncology ($CLVS) drug currently in a midstage clinical trial to treat ovarian cancer. That's just one drug, of course. But Foundation President and CEO Dr. Michael Pellini noted that a universal companion diagnostic was very much a part of Foundation's long-term goal. Foundation Medicine's FoundationOne test, of course, is a sequencing-based diagnostic test designed to run through 343 cancer-related genes to match patients with the best possible treatment. Its FoundationOne Heme tests for various blood-based cancers uses the same core technology.

"The use of Foundation Medicine's platform is an important step in the evolution of cancer from a static, single-gene companion diagnostic approach toward universal companion diagnostic standards," he said in a statement at the time.

So why are diagnostics and drug companies moving toward universal companion diagnostic tests? Simply put, they'd boost diagnostic and drug-development efficiency, allowing for simultaneous gene sequencing that could identify the best treatment in multiple cases for multiple drugs. One test paired with a single treatment offers limited returns.

In Thermo Fisher's case, its test is expected to be built from its next-generation gene sequencing technology. Also at play will be its Ion Personal Genome Machine Dx Platform, Ion AmpliSeq technology and content from the Oncomine Cancer Research Panel. That last product got into Thermo Fisher's hands when it snatched up Life Technologies in February for approximately $13.6 billion.

In a statement, Dan Rhodes, head of oncology for Life Science Solutions at Thermo Fisher, noted that "the promise of personalized medicine in oncology" depends more and more on multiple, complex genetic tests.

Interestingly, investors responded tepidly about Thermo Fisher's companion diagnostics announcement. Its stock closed at $120.99 on Sept. 25, down just over 2%.

- here is the release
- read more about the Thermo Fisher deal in FierceMedicalDevices

Special Report: FierceBiotech's 2012 Fierce 15 - Foundation Medicine

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