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Roche Backing Liquid Biopsy's Development of New CTC Detection Method

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Uppsala BIO today announced an agreement with Roche to support a project aimed at developing a new technology for detecting circulating tumor cells.

Liquid Biopsy, a spinout of the Karolinska Institute, is developing a method based on cancer cell-specific flow properties that could provide "a much better basis for early detection, choice of treatment, and follow-up" for cancer than is currently available, Uppsala BIO said.

Along with Roche, BIO-X, a program aimed at developing new diagnostics, will back Liquid Biopsy's efforts. The agreement provides Liquid Biopsy with BIO-X's process support and Roche's global R&D capabilities, including access to the drug firm's equipment, services, reagents, expertise, and funding.

The agreement is for up to two years. No financial details were disclosed.

The agreement comes at a time when "[s]afe and early identification of metastatic spread of a primary tumor needs a technology not dependent on individual biomarkers," according to Uppsala BIO, a non-profit entity seeking to increase competitiveness and growth in Sweden's life science market. While an increase in CTC levels is an early sign of cancers with tumors that metastasize, current methods using identified biomarkers can capture only some CTCs, it added.

Other firms are also looking to capture this opportunity, and among those developing liquid biopsy technologies are Ipsen and Institut Gustave Roussy, Fluxion Biosciences and the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Affymetrix and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Liquid Biopsy's method seeks to isolate and measure all types of suspended cancer cells, including CTC from blood. The firm will validate its technology on patient materials at selected clinics.

"I'm very much looking forward to starting this project," Christer Ericsson, co-founder and CSO of Liquid Biopsy, said in a statement. "We are aware of difficulties the project may meet, but the additional support we now have from the BIO-X program and the collaboration set up with Roche is a very solid platform to work from to ultimately help reduce sickness and death in cancer dramatically."

Zafrira Avnur, head of the Extending the Innovation Network with academia at Roche, added, "We are very pleased to launch the first project under the BIO-X umbrella agreement, especially in an area where we can leverage both our pharmaceutical and diagnostics capabilities, and we are looking forward for a fruitful collaboration with Uppsala BIO and Liquid Biopsy."