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Illumina partners with pharma majors on cancer diagnostic

Will work with AstraZeneca, Janssen and Sanofi to develop gene sequencing tool
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The role of personalised medicines in oncology took another step forward today with the announcement that gene sequencing specialist Illumina is to work with three leading pharma companies on a cancer diagnostic tool.

San Diego, US-based Illumina, which was the subject of a failed takeover by Roche just last year, will partner with AstraZeneca, Janssen and Sanofi to develop a gene sequencing test system that can be used for clinical trials involving personalised cancer drugs – medicines that target specific gene mutations in a cancer patient.

Illumina hopes to be able to develop and commercialise a 'multi-gene panel for therapeutic selection', meaning pharma companies have a universal tool for these medicines rather than a separate tests for different drugs.

The technology is intended to inform healthcare professionals about the molecular make-up of a tumour, enabling them to match medicines to the drivers of disease in specific patients.

“This partnership has the potential to deliver an unprecedented amount of clinical information from a single test,” said Ruth March, VP, personalised healthcare and biomarkers at AstraZeneca, which outlined its ambitious plans in cancer to PMLiVE earlier this year.

“Our aim is that doctors can use these tests to prescribe the right drugs to the right patients – bringing benefits to healthcare professionals, payers and patients alike,” added March.

Improvements in gene sequencing and diagnostics has led to the growth of the personalised medicines in cancer, especially in breast and lung cancer.

According to Illumina, the potential in the area is huge, with 125 genes that drive the growth of cancer known to have been discovered.

With these potential targets, it's no surprise to learn that there are an estimated 800 oncology drugs are in development, many of which are designed to target specific mutations, meaning an increased need for new diagnostics.

Dr Rick Klausner, Illumina's chief medical officer said: “These agreements represent the deep engagement between Illumina and the pharma community to create the technical, clinical, regulatory and ultimately commercial solutions for the next generation of molecular oncology.”

Illumina also has other ongoing partnerships including a huge project in the UK to sequence the genomes of 100,000 people in the UK by 2017 in an attempt to make the country a leader in personalised medicine.

Article by
Thomas Meek

21st August 2014

From: Research

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