AstraZeneca today announced that it has entered into a collaboration with gene sequencing company, Illumina, Inc., to develop its next generation sequencing (NGS) platform for companion diagnostic tests applicable across AstraZeneca’s oncology portfolio. In the first instance, AstraZeneca intends to apply Illumina’s cutting-edge technology to a novel companion diagnostic test in pivotal studies for one of its investigational oncology compounds. This is expected to be one of the first NGS-based companion diagnostic tests for a novel drug in the world, and its application could speed the clinical trial process.
Illumina’s NGS technology allows rapid sequencing of multiple genes in a much faster and cheaper way than traditional DNA sequencing methods. Under the collaboration, it will be used to screen a panel of several gene sequences, scanning for all possible genetic variants — known and unknown — rather than specified mutations from a single tumour sample.
The comprehensive information obtained from sequencing full genes will be used to predict which patients will respond to certain treatments, and will go through appropriate regulation. Doctors are increasingly using companion diagnostic tests as an essential part of personalised healthcare to help them understand the causes of disease at a molecular level.
Ruth March, Vice President, Personalised 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’ tumours, enabling them to match medicines to the drivers of disease. Our aim is for doctors to be able to use these tests to prescribe the right medicines for the right patients – bringing benefits to healthcare professionals, payers and patients alike.”
“Illumina is developing a universal test system to support our partners’ oncology drug pipelines,” said Rick Klausner, M.D., Illumina’s Chief Medical Officer. “We’re excited to be working together with companies such as AstraZeneca, and other bodies, to maximize genomic medicine benefits to patients. For example, last month we were chosen by the British government to sequence 100,000 genomes of patients and families and link this to the National Health Service database. Through this work, which will be done in Cambridge, UK, we will be contributing to making the UK the first ever country to introduce genome sequencing into its mainstream healthcare provision.”
The collaboration is aligned with AstraZeneca’s strategic ambition to transform patients’ lives through personalised healthcare, ensuring that innovative treatments are matched to those patients who will benefit most. It is the third diagnostic collaboration to be signed in recent weeks following agreements with Roche and Qiagen to develop tests that analyse the DNA from lung cancer patients’ tumours circulating in their blood, in order to determine their epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation status.