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CureMatch Building Genomic Therapy-Matching Business Focused on Drug Combinations


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A newcomer to the genomic medicine field, CureMatch, announced earlier this year that it had closed a bridge round to Series A financing with Serra Ventures after launching its genomics-based therapy-matching service this spring.

The company's COO Stephane Richard said in an interview this week that CureMatch hasn't disclosed details of the Serra financing yet, but the firm's business strategy involves an initial focus on marketing its analysis directly to patients and doctors while working on pilot studies with genomics providers that may later lead to white-label type agreements that integrate its analysis into their own reports.

Co-founded by UCSD researchers Razell Kurzrock and Igor Tsigelny, CureMatch is based on a strategy that couples traditional scientific data curation with a more real-time annotation of clinical experience — applying the end result specifically to the question of drug combinations.

Although access to precision medicine is still far from universal, patients with cancer, especially at larger medical centers, are increasingly receiving at least some kind of genomic testing — whether a more limited sequencing panel, comprehensive or whole-genome sequencing, or newer non-invasive liquid biopsy assays.

With many of these tests, results are returned to doctors in a format that highlights or recommends specific therapies based on curation of clinical data from FDA-approved or investigational therapies — or, in some cases, even deeper analyses that include preclinical trials, basic functional studies, or case reports.

Companies like Molecular Health and Cure Forward have also emerged that provide this type of therapy-matching or decision support analyses as a standalone service, which can be applied to a patient's existing genomic or other molecular data.

But despite growing evidence that molecular profiling can be done in clinically relevant time frames and produce actionable information, getting patients enrolled in clinical trials or treated with targeted therapies remains a challenge.

For example, researchers reported earlier this year that although potentially actionable results can be found in up to 95 percent of patients, the likelihood of a patient actually receiving a genomically guided therapy hovers between 5 percent and 16 percent, whether through approved drugs or in a clinical trial.

Some investigators have pointed to the failures of current tools to appropriately guide physicians as one contributor to this disparity, but they have hope that better decision support can help resolve it.

For its part, CureMatch believes it can distinguish itself both from the decision support provided by genomics service providers and from these other stand-alone therapy-matching programs.

Central to the firm's value proposition is its focus on guiding not just single therapies, but suggesting combinations of drugs, Richard explained.

The strategy reflects Kurzrock's focus in the academic sphere, where she has been working to develop platforms that can help physicians access up-to-date information on genomic medicine from the literature, but also allow them to integrate their own clinical experience in real time, continually refining the resource.

As a commercial firm, CureMatch is seeking to take that groundwork and translate it into a product that can expand access to this type of decision support beyond the setting of a leading cancer center to community oncologists and patients across the country.

Unlike some therapy-matching programs or services, CureMatch doesn't provide a list of drugs linked to specific molecular alterations. Instead, Richard said, the firm's computational approach ranks different combinations of drugs. This is enabled by a proprietary curated database that couples an internal knowledgebase with filtered and curated input from public datasets.

CureMatch does not do any genomic sequencing and does not call variants from raw data, but Richard said that the firm is entirely agnostic to input, be it from whole-exome sequencing, transcriptomics, targeted panels, or tumor tissue derived or gleaned from circulating DNA.

Kurzrock in particular has been an early adopter and evaluator of liquid biopsy approaches, and Richard said that CureMatch planned from its inception to incorporate both ctDNA and tumor tissue results.

Since its launch this March, Richard said that CureMatch has been approached by customers who have existing genomic data and those who don't — for example, if their physician wasn't comfortable with genomics and precision medicine. In the latter case, he said that the firm provides clinicians with a description of available testing options, although it does not recommend any specific genomic service providers.

Contracting with individual patients and doctors isn't a long-term business plan, Richard said, but it has been a good way for the firm to get started and to become comfortable and attuned to the needs of clinicians.

Currently, the company's analysis costs $1,000 out of pocket for patients, he explained. However, the firm is also doing analysis for free in the context of understudied subgroups, like pediatric cancers, where data is still lacking on the link between genomic alterations and precision drugs.

In the longer term, CureMatch is working with a number of unnamed genomic testing firms on pilot projects with the end goal of contracting with these companies to integrate a white-label version of the firm's drug combination analysis into their own reports to customers.

"Standard of care is not really yet in terms of integrating combination therapy, but it will be tomorrow with more and more clinical trials and data coming out," Richard said. "A few years ago people were not really believers in genomic medicine, and similarly, many may not be for combination therapies right now. But in a few years, they will be."