A new product from one of the largest companies involved in biotechnology product development has potential to enable community hospitals to adopt technology used to match tumors to highly targeted drugs.
Waltham, Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific said Wednesday that it had launched the Ion Torrent Genexus System at the Association for Molecular Pathology’s annual meeting, along with a pan-cancer panel for the Genexus system, Oncomine Precision Assay. The company said the system would allow community hospitals to adopt next-generation sequencing, an increasingly important means of sequencing tumors genetically so that they can be treated with specifically targeted drugs.
“Our goal is to advance precision medicine in every clinical setting by enabling clinicians to leverage the power of comprehensive genomic information,” Thermo Fisher COO Mark Stevenson said in a statement. “We can envision a time when patients at local hospitals will have faster access to comprehensive test results that can guide more effective, targeted therapy selection and improved health outcomes.”
NGS has certainly grown in recent years, both in terms of importance and how widespread it is. A report by ResearchAndMarkets.com last year estimated that the value of the NGS market would nearly triple in size from $5.7 billion in 2018 to $16.35 billion in 2024, assuming an annual growth rate of 19.2 percent. It’s an essential component of personalized medicine, for example the detection of rare proteins like NTRK fusions and microsatellite instability-high/mismatch repair deficiency, respectively targeted by Bayer’s Vitrakvi (larotrectinib) or Roche’s Rozlytrek (entrectinib) and Merck & Co.’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab).
However, despite its promise, implementation of NGS comes with a number of logistical challenges that limit its applicability in the local hospitals, where most patients are treated and which primarily rely on single-gene tests. Thermo Fisher noted in its announcement that outsourced NGS testing is often plagued by slow results that can take several weeks and requirements for large samples, which often lead to “quantity not sufficient” reports and inconclusive results. According to one study, QNS rates range from 17-23 percent.
As a study published earlier this year put it, the power of NGS “results in significant challenges related to technical expertise, bioinformatics, computing infrastructure, laboratory practices, and integration into clinical decision-making.”
In response, a number of companies have sprung up to try and make NGS more widely available. Last month, PierianDx raised $27 million in a Series B funding round, with the goal of “democratizing” NGS. It plans to accomplish that through the use of software designed to provide clinical labs with more streamlined and accurate analysis, interpretation and reporting for accelerating personalized medicine programs. Overall, the company aims to make targeted therapies more accessible to healthcare systems, labs and patients.
Photo: REB Images, Getty Images