Qiagen ($QGEN) already has a handle on the liquid biopsy market, with kits that screen DNA and RNA from circulating tissue and purify RNA from exosomes to find abnormalities. But in the past year the company has carved a different path for itself in the field, striking deals with pharma companies to pair its technology with cancer drugs.

"We can massively contribute because liquid biopsy has potential in guiding treatment decisions, especially in cancer," Michael Kazinski, Qiagen's senior director of global product management for liquid biopsy, told FierceDiagnostics.

In July 2014, the company announced it would team up with pharma heavyweight AstraZeneca ($AZN) to develop a noninvasive diagnostic test to identify non-small cell lung cancer patients who are a good fit for Iressa, a drug that blocks signals from EGFR protein that lead to tumor growth. Earlier this year, Qiagen snagged a CE mark for its therascreen EGFR RGQ Plasma PCR kit, marking a win for the company as it continues its collaboration with AstraZeneca to develop the companion diagnostic.

Qiagen continued its liquid biopsy push in March, striking a deal with Tokai Pharmaceuticals to use its technology to develop a companion diagnostic test for Tokai's prostate cancer drug. The company also acquired technology from AdnaGen to analyze circulating tumor cells from blood samples, expanding its footprint in the field.

But Qiagen is not settling for the status quo. The company hopes to continue to expand its portfolio in the future, harnessing new developments to respond to a "dramatically changing and developing" market, Kazinski said. With an anchor in clinical diagnostics, Qiagen plans to focus on other conditions besides cancer, including neurodegenerative diseases.

"The biggest growth is in the cancer market for the short-term, to identify biomarkers to guide treatment decisions," he said. "Mid-term, this will extend toward drug resistance and treatment response. Long term, we believe liquid biopsy has the potential for the early detection of diseases."

The company is also looking to combine its work in next-generation sequencing (NGS) with liquid biopsy. There is a strong connection between liquid biopsies and NGS, especially for understanding the heterogeneity of disease when screening for specific mutations, Kazinski said.

"NGS has the promise to dive much deeper into what causes diseases such as cancer. And liquid biopsies, in combination with the products we're offering in NGS, will deliver another boost to this market," he said.

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