Fledgling Foundation Medicine scores a coup with Novartis R&D pact

Even a casual observer at ASCO last weekend would have picked up on the accelerating shift in cancer drug R&D toward the development of new therapies that can extend the lives of specific subsets of patients who share unique genomic traits. When a particular type of cancer no longer counts as a single disease, increasingly broken down into smaller populations defined by genetic anomalies, drug developers have an opportunity to run faster, smaller programs for therapies that can pinpoint populations. And they can do it with much better odds that their labors will be rewarded with a speedy regulatory approval.

In that respect, Foundation Medicine has benefited from excellent timing. Its scatter gun test that can analyze 200 genes has drawn the attention of some prominent developers. And this morning the biotech--which is backed by Google Ventures, Third Rock and Kleiner Perkins--announced that Novartis ($NVS) is expanding on their pact with plans to use the test to properly match patients to most of their Phase I and Phase II cancer trials over the next three years.

"We expect that the wealth of molecular information will help fundamentally improve the way cancer is understood and treated," said Michael J. Pellini, M.D., the CEO of Foundation Medicine. "We are pleased to see our collaboration mature into a significant relationship between Foundation Medicine and Novartis."

Only days ago Foundation Medicine launched a commercial test oncologists can use to match patients with drugs. Priced at $5,800, the test offers oncologists everywhere a chance to deliver cutting edge medicine. That's quick work for a company which debuted just two years ago. It also doesn't hurt that Foundation is doing deals with companies like Novartis, which has earned considerable respect in the oncology R&D field.

- read the press release
- here's the story from The Wall Street Journal