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Boehringer Enlists Roche Subsidiary Ventana for Companion Dx Help

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Originally published Sept. 23.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Roche may be competitors when it comes to selling pharmacogenetically targeted lung cancer drugs, but that hasn't stopped Roche from extending the services of its subsidiary Ventana Medical Systems to help Boehringer develop companion tests to personalize cancer drugs.

Boehringer and Ventana announced an agreement last week to work together to advance companion diagnostics to identify best responders to undisclosed Boehringer oncology treatments.

Ventana plans to utilize its expertise in immunohistochemistry-based diagnosticsand help Boehringer take tests through regulatory submissions.

The partnership is a prime example of Roche's strategy to become a personalized medicine leader within the diagnostics and pharmaceutical markets. On the one hand, the company's drug division is moving aggressively to advance pharmacogenomically targeted treatments in areas such as cancer and neurodegenerative disease. Roche has boasted that more than 60 percent of the compounds in its drug pipeline are currently paired with a companion diagnostic (PGx Reporter 9/12/2012).

On the other hand, Roche's diagnostics subsidiary Ventana has worked with more than 45 drug companies over a decade and inked 150 collaborative companion diagnostics projects. Roche and its subsidiaries have strict firewall policies that enable it to advance companion tests for its own personalized medicines as well as partner with competitors like the one inked between Ventana and Boehringer.

Most recently, the US Food and Drug Administration okayed a new first-line indication for Roche/Genentech's Tarceva (erlotinib) with Roche's Cobas EGFR Mutation test as the companion test (PGx Reporter 5/15/2013).

Boehringer meanwhile will compete with Roche subsidiary Genentech to capture the NSCLC market for those with EGFR mutations. In July, the FDA approved Gilotrif (afatinib) for the first-line treatment of metastatic NSCLC patients who harbor EGFR exon 19 deletions or exon 21 L858R substitutions. The drug is simultaneously approved with a companion test developed by Qiagen to pick out best responders. Boehringer launched the drug in September (PGx Reporter 9/4/2013).

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