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Completing Funding Round, New Oncology Plans to Develop Liquid Biopsy Sequencing Test


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – German MDx firm New Oncology is planning to launch a liquid biopsy cancer mutation test this year supported by an undisclosed amount raised in a funding round this week.

An offshoot of German contract research and analytics firm Blackfield, New Oncology currently offers a targeted sequencing assay called NeoPlus, which profiles more than 70 cancer-associated genes for point mutations, gene amplifications, gene fusions, and other rearrangements using a target amplification and sequencing strategy.

The funding comes amid a string of deals for New Oncology over the last six months, including partnerships with cancer centers and university hospitals in Oslo, Singapore, and France for the clinical sequencing of cancer patients.

New Oncology Chief Scientific Officer Johannes Heuckmann and CEO Andreas Jenne told GenomeWeb this week that the firm also has additional testing agreements it hasn't yet made public.

Having witnessed how NeoPlus has improved the care of cancer patients in some of these early partnerships, New Oncology is now working toward a launch of a second offering, a blood-based sequencing assay called NeoLiquid, which will analyze patients circulating cell-free tumor DNA, by the end of this year.

The firm hopes a ctDNA test will expand access for individuals with difficult to biopsy tumors, or for those who might benefit from blood-based cancer testing after acquired therapy resistance or metastasis, Heuckmann said.

'We thought it was very exciting when we saw the changes that our assay introduces into the treatment of the patient," he explained. "So I think it is a logical concept to move that into a liquid biopsy assay to make this technology available for more patients."

New Oncology's publicly announced deals for its tissue-based NeoPlus have thus far been focused on European and Asian medical centers, reflecting a current focus for the company on the European and the German domestic market. However, Jenne said, there is no reason the company's tests could not be offered on a global basis.

In expanding now into ctDNA analysis, New Oncology is joining a rapidly crowding field in which a variety of technologies — from broad sequencing to simpler single-gene assays — are being pursued for clinical blood-based testing of cancer patients, both as companion diagnostics to individual-targeted cancer therapies and as broad tools to identify both therapeutic targets and prognostic indicators.

Heuckmann said that New Oncology has not yet finalized NEOLiquid's panel of targets, but explained that the test will likely cover a smaller number of genes and alterations than NeoPlus — focused more on direct therapeutic targets and perhaps less on those that provide more peripheral information about a patient's disease.

According to the company, the test will allow detection not only of point mutations, but also of therapeutically relevant gene fusions, for example, those affecting ALK, ROS, or RET kinases.

Transitioning from sequencing DNA from tumor tissues to circulating tumor DNA is not without challenges, according to Heukmann. "There are very specific differences from FFPE DNA compared to circulating tumor DNA which have to be addressed," he said. "Both in the technological approach in the lab and also computationally in how we extract the data."

Jenne added that the company believes it will be able to meet these challenges, and that its plans for NeoLiquid were made based on strong positive data collected through beta tests with partner hospitals in Europe.