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Personalized Rx Leaders Head up New Cancer PGx Company Foundation Medicine

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Originally published April 20.

By Turna Ray

A new cancer pharmacogenomics company, Foundation Medicine, launched last week with $25 million in Series A financing, several personalized medicine leaders at its helm, and a focus on next-generation sequencing.

The initial financing for the company, raised by Third Rock Ventures, will be used to "develop clinical laboratory tests — using next generation sequencing and other advanced technologies — to broadly analyze the relevant tumor genomic and other molecular information in individual patients' cancers and connect it with a knowledgebase of clinical data to help oncologists personalize treatment," the company said in a statement.

Beyond the fact that the company aims to develop laboratory-based molecular diagnostics for the personalized treatment of cancer patients, there are few details currently available about the company and its plans going forward.

"Foundation Medicine is not prepared to discuss precise product specifications and timelines at this point," a company spokesperson told Pharmacogenomics Reporter last week. "Generally, its first comprehensive molecular analysis will be a laboratory test that fits into routine clinical practice."

While the company has stated that it will focus on next-generation sequencing and other technologies to develop "comprehensive" cancer molecular diagnostics, it "is not committed to any particular platform," the spokesperson said. "The company's goal is to use its expertise in the molecular analysis of cancer to harness the benefits of the best technologies into real-world clinical care."

Alexis Borisy will be Foundation Medicine's CEO. Borisy was previously the CEO and cofounder of a pharma company called CombinatoRx that developed combination treatments. In October 2009, Borisy joined Third Rock Ventures as an entrepreneur in residence.

Foundation Medicine's founding advisors include: Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute, professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School, and a professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Todd Golub, founding director of the Broad Institute's Cancer Program and the Charles A. Dana Investigator in Human Cancer Genetics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Levi Garraway, who serves as assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber, a faculty member of Dana-Farber's Center for Cancer Genome Discovery, and leader of the OncoMap project; and Matthew Meyerson, director of the Center for Cancer Genome Discovery at Dana-Farber, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, a principal investigator of the Cancer Genome Atlas project, and a senior associate member at the Broad.

Also assisting Foundation is a board of directors with industry experience, including Borisy; Mark Levin, a partner at Third Rock Ventures and former chief executive officer of Millennium Pharmaceuticals; David Schenkein, chief executive officer of Agios Pharmaceuticals and former leader of Genentech's BioOncology development portfolio; and Robert Tepper, partner at Third Rock Ventures and former president of research and development at Millennium Pharmaceuticals.

Since there will be members of the drug industry in Foundation Medicine's board, partnerships with pharma to advance Rx/Dx partners may be a possibility in the future.

"It is premature to discuss the details of Foundation Medicine's partnering strategy, but the company believes that partnering with the best organizations will be important in helping make this transformation in cancer care a reality," the spokesperson said.

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