Five companies to watch in the liquid biopsy field

Liquid biopsy tests are gaining traction within the industry as a viable alternative to traditional screening methods for cancer. A recent report by financial services firm Cowen & Co. said annual sales for the tools could surpass $10 billion, and study results are also turning up positive data in favor of the tests.

In a JAMA Oncology editorial published in February, researchers from Yale and Washington University in St. Louis commented on a study looking at non-small cell lung tumors with genetic alterations that could be identified in blood. A liquid test could provide a less-expensive and less-invasive way to monitor patients throughout treatment, help individuals avoid additional surgeries and help clinicians make better decisions about which drugs are the best fit for patients, according to the report.

And commercial interest in the technology is growing, with new companies and established diagnostics companies looking to cash in on the trend. Industry heavyweight Qiagen ($QGEN) markets kits that screen DNA and RNA from circulating tissue and purify RNA from exosomes to find abnormalities, and is striking deals with pharma companies to use the technology for companion diagnostics. California-based Genomic Health is also building on its foundation in cancer diagnostics to roll out liquid biopsy technology, aiming to launch its first product in 2016.

Other companies are developing their liquid biopsy products amid change, as they shoot for IPOs to fund R&D and commercialization. RainDance Technologies filed for a $60 million public offering in March to support development of its digital droplet technology and PCR system, which scans for key cancer mutations in DNA. Biocept, which launched an IPO in 2014, is also forging ahead with its liquid biopsy tech, recently launching a diagnostic for non-small cell lung cancer that identifies EGFR mutations to help doctors find suitable treatments for patients.

Not to be outdone, San Diego, CA-based Trovagene is also hard at work on its liquid biopsy tests. The company bills its urine-based diagnostic as more sensitive than traditional biopsies, as it can screen an ultrashort DNA sequence to provide information on how mutations respond to therapy over time.

While the following is not an exhaustive look at companies in the field, it provides an overview of those with innovative technologies that are already starting to make their mark. As always, feel free to drop us a line with any comments or feedback. -- Emily Wasserman (email | Twitter)

Five companies to watch in the liquid biopsy field