Merck Serono has entered a strategic collaboration with Illumina to expand the development of a universal next-generation sequencing (NGS) based oncology diagnostic for clinical trials of targeted cancer therapies.
As part of the deal, the two firms will jointly work to develop assays that detect and simultaneously measure multiple genetic variants in a single tumour sample in a clinical trial setting.
According to Merck, Illumina's successful regulatory track record was a major consideration in the collaboration as next-generation sequencing platforms cleared by a regulatory agency could accelerate development of an assay and facilitate registration of a companion diagnostic.
Merck Serono Global Business Development head Susan Herbert said: "Our collaboration with Illumina around next-generation sequencing will enable us to perform genome studies at a pace unheard of a few years ago, and could lead to the development of several diagnostics."
The deal will include development of the diagnostic worldwide regulatory approvals and global commercialisation.
Illumina chief medical officer Richard Klausner said: "This agreement is another step forward in realising the promise of precision medicine.
"There is a clear need to expand genetically-based clinical trials as a key approach for developing better treatments for cancer."
The new deal complements Merck's existing partnerships in the area of diagnostics including Life Technologies and Dako, allowing Merck Serono to choose from a wide variety of technologies in implementing a precision medicine strategy.
Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical business of Merck, is focused on the discovery, development, manufacturing and marketing of prescription medicines of chemical and biological origin in specialist indications.