Genomic Health

Genomic Health ($GHDX) already has a track record of innovation, pioneering a multigene assay for cancer that looks at patients' tumor tissue at a molecular level to provide personalized information for treatment planning. Now the company is diving into the liquid biopsy field, beefing up R&D to cash in on a growing market and gain ground in personalized medicine.

Genomic Health CSO Steven Shak

"We invest in the best technologies that are out there. But we take very much a focus when we use the technology that does the job: What's the purpose of the liquid biopsy test? What does it have to do for clinical validation and usefulness? That's differentiated in the last decade," Dr. Steven Shak, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Genomic Health, told FierceDiagnostics.

The company launched its Oncotype Dx tests a little more than 10 years ago and has since sold about a half-million products. But two years ago, Genomic Health began shifting its attention to the liquid biopsy field. The company's liquid biopsy tests would build on its current offerings, tracking a patient throughout the course of his or her disease rather than providing a one-time diagnosis.

But generating momentum for the test will take time and an investment in resources, Shak said. The company will need to translate results to secure patient and payer confidence--no easy task considering the relative complexity of the technology. Shak compared the liquid biopsy field to serum cholesterol tests for cardiac disease, which evolved from clinical studies to a commonly used and understood diagnostic tool.

"Our field is going to evolve in a similar way. Just like advancements in cardiac disease focusing on clinical utility and the communication of results to guide therapy, the same focus is going to be required for liquid biopsy as well," Shak said. "We know that it's our job to help translate the result into a form the patient can understand and the payer will pay for."

Meanwhile, Genomic Health is readying its sales force and ramping up its commercial channel for its first launch in 2016. The company has more than 100 sales representatives in the United States and provides its Oncotype Dx tool to more than 70 countries around the world, laying a solid foundation for its liquid biopsy rollout.

"It's going to be challenging for other small technology-focused organizations to rapidly acquire the commercial infrastructure," Shak said. "We now have our own data that we developed with proprietary technology. We can find that needle in the haystack, that DNA that can signal that treatment is effective and can progress."

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Genomic Health