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From pilot to partners
July 2012
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


CAMBRIDGE, Mass.óMolecular information company Foundation Medicine recently announced the establishment of a new agreement with Novartis, under which Foundation Medicine will provide comprehensive genomic analysis for the support of Novartis' clinical oncology program.  
Per the agreement, Novartis will use Foundation Medicine's comprehensive genomic profiling on most of the volunteers enrolled in its oncology Phase I and Phase II clinical trials over the next three years. The collaboration will also work toward accelerating the development of Novartis' portfolio of cancer therapeutics in hopes of expanding treatment options for patients. Additional details regarding financial terms and which of Novartis' specific cancer programs will be involved were not disclosed.
"The comprehensive molecular assessment of Novartis' oncology clinical trial samples is expected to help to bring potentially lifesaving therapies to the right patients more quickly, and we expect that the wealth of molecular information will help fundamentally improve the way cancer is understood and treated," Dr. Michael J. Pellini, president and CEO of Foundation Medicine, said in a press release. "We are pleased to see our collaboration mature into a significant relationship between Foundation Medicine and Novartis."  
The program has provided interesting data, the companies note, and Barbara Weber, senior vice president of Oncology Translational Medicine at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research Inc., adds that the format of tumor genome profiling "has become an essential component of Novartis' clinical trials."
"Overall, we believe the Foundation Medicine molecular information platform offers an important step forward in understanding the genomic profiling of each patient's cancer and will ultimately help us achieve our goal to bring the right treatment to the right patient across a broad range of cancers and hematologic diseases," says Weber.
The agreement is a continuation of Novartis' and Foundation Medicine's relationship, which was first established in January of this year. The companies announced a strategic pilot collaboration to develop, enhance and optimize Foundation Medicine's cancer genome panel test to fit Novartis' needs, with the intent to evaluate future collaborations on production and commercialization of the test if the pilot phase was successful. Alexis Borisy, CEO of Foundation Medicine, noted in a press release regarding the pilot collaboration that it represented the company's first pharmaceutical partnership. No financial details were disclosed.
Foundation Medicine is striving to develop a comprehensive cancer diagnostic test, focusing on next-generation sequencing to garner relevant information to help doctors make more informed decisions for more individualized cancer care. The laboratory tests are designed "to accommodate and assimilate a dynamic landscape of cancer genome and other molecular information and growing availability of treatment options," the company notes, allowing doctors to compare each patient's unique "cancer-associated aberrations" against existing genomic knowledge and available therapies.  
The company's approach consists of using clinical-grade, next-generation sequencing to analyze hundreds of cancer-related genes in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumor samples. Novartis' hope is to use this approach to align its enrollment for clinical trials and outcome analysis with the genomic profiles of individual patient tumors. Foundation Medicine may develop additional diagnostic products resulting from its collaboration with Novartis.  
The collaboration is Foundation Medicine's second in recent months, as the company announced another agreement with Array BioPharma on March 6. In the collaboration, Foundation Medicine's genomic sequencing will be applied to evaluate potentially relevant molecular alterations that could assist Array in determining which patients are most likely to respond to treatment. Array's portfolio includes several targeted cancer agents in early-stage clinical development, and with the help of Foundation Medicine's genomic sequencing, Array hopes to determine the genetic profile of tumors from patients who are treated with its anticancer agents. The objective is to gain understanding in how to identify which patients might respond to a given therapy in yet another step toward more specific, individualized cancer treatment.
Code: E071217



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