Personalis said it will partner with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, to identify and develop novel clinical biomarkers for cancer therapies, through a collaboration whose value was not disclosed.

Merck KGaA plans to use Personalis’ newest cancer immunogenomics platform ImmunoID NeXT for clinical biomarker identification and development. ImmunoID NeXT—first announced in November 2018 with new features integrated August 1—is an expansion of its universal cancer immunogenomics platform designed as an end-to-end solution built for precision oncology biomarker discovery through to clinical applications.

ImmunoID NeXT is designed to help clinicians gain insights through deep interrogation and analysis of approximately 20,000 genes, together with the immune system, from a single tissue sample. Personalis has contrasted that with many cancer panels that cover approximately 50 to 500 genes.

Personalis disclosed November 13 in its most recent Form 10-Q quarterly earnings filing a potential use for its biomarkers: “We are also planning to release a diagnostic based on our NeXT Platform that we envision being used initially by biopharmaceutical customers and clinical collaborators.”

Since its inception, Personalis added, it has provided its services to more than 47 biopharmaceutical customers, “including several of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.”

The ImmunoID NeXT platform consolidated multiple biomarker assays into one, with the goal of providing a multidimensional view of the tumor- and immune-related components of the tumor microenvironment from that single sample.

Features of ImmunoID include simultaneous analysis of cancer mutations, the immune repertoire, neoantigens, tumor escape mechanisms, DNA repair pathways, human leukocyte antigens (including typing, loss of heterozygosity, and somatic mutation detection), tumor mutational burden (TMB), microsatellite instability (MSI), oncoviruses, immune checkpoints, gene expression, immune signatures, and other advanced biomarkers.

Those features, according to Personalis, are pivotal for clinicians to understand tumor and immune cell interactions and how the nature of these interactions can impact cancer patients’ ability to respond to immunotherapies and combination therapies.

“We will work with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, to leverage the NeXT Platform for novel biomarker identification, analysis of therapy resistance mechanisms, patient stratification, combination therapy strategy, and comprehensive molecular categorization of cancers for enabling precision therapy,” Personalis CSO Richard Chen, M.D., said in a statement.

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