Illumina, Inc. Partners With AstraZeneca PLC, Johnson & Johnson To Create New Genetic Tests For Cancer

Published: Aug 21, 2014

Illumina, Inc. Partners With AstraZeneca PLC, Johnson & Johnson To Create New Genetic Tests For Cancer Illumina, Inc. Partners With AstraZeneca PLC, Johnson & Johnson To Create New Genetic Tests For Cancer

August 21, 2014

By Jessica Wilson, Breaking News Staff

Illumina, Inc. , the San Diego-based company that develops, manufactures and markets integrated systems for the analysis of genetic variation and biological functions, today announced it has formed a collaborative partnership with leading pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca PLC , Janssen Biotech Inc.—a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson , and Sanofi. The collaborative partnership aims to develop a paradigm-shifting universal next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based system for oncology research and drug development. Once Illumina achieves regulatory approval, the company will commercialize the system.

Ruth March, Vice President, Personalized Healthcare & Biomarkers at AstraZeneca, said, “This partnership has the potential to deliver an unprecedented amount of clinical information from a single test. Illumina's technology will inform doctors about the molecular make-up of their patients’ tumors, enabling them to match medicines to the drivers of disease. 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.”

Thus far, cancer researchers have identified 125 cancer driver genes—71 tumor suppressors and 54 oncogenes—that lead to tumor growth via 12 cellular signaling pathways. The oncogenes, once activated, promote cell growth, while the tumor suppressors , once turned off, no longer prevent tumor growth. The upshot of all the research is that there is no one cause of cancer and that to provide the most effective treatment to patients, doctors need to know which mixture of cancer genes have been activated or deactivated in their patients. An estimated 800 oncology drugs are in development the world over, with many of these drugs targeting specific mutations. The rise of targeted drugs requires more accurate, and specific, diagnostic testing—which is what Illumina wants to achieve with its new universal NGS-based test system.

According to Rick Klausner, M.D., Illumina’s Chief Medical Officer. “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. We’re excited to be working together to maximize benefits to patients with cancer.”

The universal NGS-based test system represents a shift from single-analyte companion diagnostics (an analyte is “a substance or chemical constituent that is of interest in an analytical procedure”), which provide information about one component at a time. Illumina’s new test system will use a multi-gene panel for therapeutic selection of patients for clinical trials, resulting in a more comprehensive tool for precision medicine.

“The transition to patient-centered companion therapeutics [e.g. diagnostic tests] marks a new era for oncology,” said Ellen V. Sigal, Ph.D., Chair and Founder of Friends of Cancer Research. “This is the type of collaboration that will make real progress for patients.”

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