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Cepheid, University of Pittsburgh Partner on DNA -based Cancer Diagnostics

NEW YORK, Aug. 6 – Cepheid has partnered with surgeons from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to develop a gene-based intraoperative diagnostic tool, the company said on Monday.

The effort, which will play out over three years, calls for the company to remunerate the researchers for identifying and evaluating genetic markers for the cancer-related gene CEA . Cepheid will use its Smart Cycler gene amplification and detection system to validate the markers, and will use the testing process to develop its automated GeneXpert cartridge-based system for integrating sample preparation.

Cepheid CEO Thomas Gutshall said the company would be a “major financial sponsor” of the work done by University of Pittsburgh researchers, though he declined to provide specific numbers. Gutshall added that Cepheid retains rights to develop commercially any assays that result from the collaboration. 

“Nucleic acid testing is the wave of the future” in clinical diagnostics, said Gutshall, who envisions surgeons using GeneXpert to determine intraoperatively if a cancer has spread. The current process, which uses microscopic evaluation of a tissue sample, is subject to time-constraints and errors that may necessitate a second surgery, Gutshall said.

He said assays could be used in the longterm to shorten the waiting time, though initially the assays would be complementary to the pathological examination as an additional source of data.

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