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Epic Sciences, USC Michelson Center Sign Licensing Agreement for Liquid Biopsy Research

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated in the headline that the collaboration focused on next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology.

NEW YORK – Epic Sciences said on Thursday that it has signed a licensing agreement with the University of Southern California's Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience to improve the firm's liquid biopsy platform and allow for more precise characterization of rare circulating tumor cells (CTCs).

As part of the collaboration, San Diego-based Epic will have access to the center's liquid biopsy samples and expand its platform to in-depth characterization of both cell-free fractions and CTCs using genomic, proteomic, and AI-based morphological tools.

Epic's platform, originally licensed from USC researcher Peter Kuhn's laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute, uses AI-trained machine-vision algorithms to analyze blood treated with fluorescent antibodies. The firm is developing the platform to guide therapy selection and monitor disease progression, which it believes will personalize and advance the treatment and management of prostate and breast cancer.

Epic aims to offer the next-generation CTC technology as part of its suite of Comprehensive Cancer Profiling technologies — which includes the firm's circulating tumor DNA capabilities — to provide clinicians and pharmaceutical partners with precision medicine diagnostic tests.

"The ability to identify circulating neoplastic cells and cells from the tumor microenvironment provides additional information critical to understanding the current state of a patient's disease and offers the ability to monitor cancer status and response to a specific therapy," Rick Wenstrup, chief medical officer of Epic, said in a statement.

Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed.

"We are excited about this collaboration with Epic Sciences intended to accelerate our goals towards improved cancer patient outcomes," Kuhn said in a statement. "It also advances Epic Sciences further towards a data science company."

Epic previously signed a global strategic partnership with Predicine in October to offer biopharmaceutical companies access to liquid biopsy testing.