ddn Online

The Blog of Drug Discovery News

Companion diagnostics ready to soar

As I’ve worked with companies putting together the next installment in our Trends in Cancer Research series, I’ve learned that pharma seems to be realizing that it needs to collaborate with diagnostic companies to stratify patients and to make safer, more effective drugs.

The development of companion drugs and diagnostics has the potential to improve treatment outcomes, enhance patient compliance with prescriptions and eliminate the need for insurers to pay for expensive therapies that often prove to be ineffective.

And the available information on biomarkers that indicate whether a therapy could work on a particular individual continues to grow rapidly.

Still, it can be a daunting task to develop drugs and companion diagnostics.

One company—Eli Lilly & Co.—has announced plans to build a diagnostics capability. A big part of the company’s innovation strategy is providing improved outcomes for individual patients—which it says can be achieved through tailored therapies.

Several technologies exist that enable the development of biomarkers into companion diagnostics. PCR, microarrays and expression profiling are being used to improve the sensitivity and selectivity of companion diagnostics. Next-generation sequencing and proteomics are two other growing areas of interest.

Biomarkers that are validated have the ability to lead to safer and more effective products, especially when developed into a companion diagnostic.

There certainly are challenges, such as identifying the right biomarker early in the discovery process; developing a robust biomarker assay in advance in the clinic; developing companion diagnostics well before reaching Phase III trials; and gaining approval of a drug and diagnostic at the same time.

An example of just how far this area has come is the World Companion Diagnostics Summit—to be held Dec. 1-2 in Boston. The summit will be addressing exactly these most crucial challenges, and has been developed in collaboration with the companion diagnostic pioneers from Roche, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis, Pfizer, Amgen, Abbott, Qiagen and Dako.

According to the website, the meeting has “evolved from the urgent need for those committed to personalized medicine to come together and share expertise that will underpin the path for making companion diagnostics a reality.”

Workshops will be held Nov. 30 and Dec. 3.

The summit will provide the scientific community an opportunity to have an open discussion of strategies for developing companion diagnostics and making strides in the quality and efficacy of research results. In the end, hopefully, we will all be winners.

(Note: If your company or institution is doing pharma or biotech research and development the oncology arena and would like to serve as a source for the last installment in ddn’s Trend in Cancer Research series, contact David Hutton at hutton@drugdiscoverynews.com.)

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September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Corporate, Dealmakers | , ,

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