Freenome puts down $16M to pick up fellow cancer test maker Oncimmune

Though much of Freenome’s focus has been on its blood test for the early detection of colorectal cancer, the company is also in the process of building out its multiomics platform to be able to test for other types of cancer, too.

A new acquisition aims to accelerate the latter goal. Freenome put down 13 million British pounds—or about $16.1 million—to absorb Oncimmune Limited and Oncimmune Europe GmbH, two subsidiaries of U.K.-based Oncimmune, another maker of early cancer diagnostics.

The buyout hands Freenome the reins of Oncimmune’s autoantibody platform and R&D pipeline, as well as its EarlyCDT Lung blood test, which is already CE-marked for use in detecting lung cancer in its earliest stages.

In Oncimmune’s Monday announcement about the sale, CEO Adam Hill, M.D., Ph.D., said that in Freenome’s hands, “the full potential of the technology will be unlocked to the benefit of patients.”

The U.K. acquisition comes a few years after Oncimmune sold off its U.S. operations to lung cancer test maker Biodesix. That 2019 deal was worth up to $28 million spread out across five years and included an R&D collaboration agreement between Oncimmune and Biodesix.

As Freenome wraps up clinical trials of its colorectal screening test, it has also recently launched a study of another test that could look for multiple diseases at once, including lung and pancreatic cancers.

All of the company’s diagnostics operate on its multiomics platform, which uses machine learning and computational biology to delve into the genomic, transcriptomic, methylomic and proteomic makeup of a standard blood draw. The technology looks for biomarkers known to be linked to the early stages of cancer, including microscopic genetic changes and other indicators found both within and outside of tumors.

Adding Oncimmune’s own database of autoantibodies, profiling technology and existing pipeline of several cancer detection targets to the mix could therefore help improve the disease-spotting abilities of Freenome’s platform, CEO Mike Nolan said in Freenome’s acquisition announcement.

“In addition, the growing clinical impact of EarlyCDT Lung, a commercialized autoantibody assay, strengthens Freenome’s lung cancer detection capabilities,” Nolan continued. “This merger of expertise and technology fortifies Freenome’s holistic approach to the early detection of multiple cancers and accelerates the timeline to bring our screening tests to the forefront of clinical care.”

With the sell-off complete, Oncimmune’s remaining business now largely revolves around its ImmunoInsights pharma services business, which is operated primarily through its Oncimmune Germany GmbH subsidiary.

Separately from the acquisition deal, Freenome also signed an agreement with Oncimmune in which it promised to purchase at least 1.14 million euros’ ($1.23 million) worth of ImmunoInsights services from the German subsidiary each year. The deal will last for at least two years, with an option for Freenome to extend it for another three years after that.

The ImmunoInsights platform comprises a library of more than 8,000 human and multi-species antigens that Oncimmune’s partners can sift through to spot potential drug targets—or, in the case of a testmaker like Freenome, potential new approaches to detecting disease.