Roche says it has linked up with Qiagen of the Netherlands to develop tests for a key cancer biomarker.

The Swiss major has obtained a worldwide co-exclusive licence for the biomarker PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase) from Qiagen to develop diagnostic assays. Financial details have not been disclosed.

The PI3K pathway is mutated in more cancer patients than any other, Roche noted, playing “a significant role in colorectal, gastric, breast and endometrial tumours, among others”. Drugs that inhibit PI3K are “a significant focus of current cancer drug development”, the company added, stating that its Genentech unit has several molecules at the early stage “targeting various points along this pathway”.

Paul Brown, chief executive at Roche Molecular Diagnostics, said there is “abundant clinical evidence that the PI3K biomarker will play a significant role in the future of oncology treatment”. He added that diagnostic assays that detect mutations in PI3K “will be an essential component of cancer drug development and personalised healthcare”.

The USA’s Johns Hopkins University owns the patent for the PI3K biomarker and had previously granted an exclusive licence to Qiagen's wholly owned subsidiary DxS, now known as Qiagen Manchester.