Quintiles has deepened its commitment to genomic tools that can improve the efficiency of drug development while underpinning the shift towards personalised medicine by partnering with Population Genetics Technologies (PGT), a UK company that specialises in large-scale, lower-cost genomic analyses.

The US-based biopharmaceutical services provider sees its non-exclusive commercial collaboration with PGT as bringing “genomic testing into mainstream drug development in order to produce safer, more effective medicines”.

Together, the two companies will look for opportunities to apply large-scale genomic analyses in testing clinical hypotheses and correlating biomarkers of disease prognosis with drug responsiveness.

While this approach enables rapid identification of rare and common alleles that collectively account for significant variations in treatment responses, to date it has been prohibitively expensive, as separate sample preparation, sequencing and analysis are  needed for each sample, Quintiles points out.

PGT’s proprietary technology, on the other hand, can process hundreds of genomes simultaneously, using a single sequencing assay yet retaining the ability to identify each individual genome during post-sequencing data analysis.

Combined with Quintiles’ global presence, this technology “can bring the benefits of large-scale sequencing and analysis to virtually all biopharmaceutical companies”, comments M King Jolly, senior vice president of Quintiles Innovation.

The benefits, Jolly adds, include improving the probability of success in clinical trials, reducing the volume of trial enrolment needed to achieve statistical significance, and cutting the costs and/or time required to bring a product to market – “all while improving product differentiation”.

Renal cancer trial

The first project under the collaboration is a renal cancer clinical trial aimed at identifying genetic markers predictive of both adverse events and efficacy. However, notes Frank Massam, chief commercial officer of PGT, “our workflows are appropriate to all therapeutic areas. We are currently running programmes in breast cancer, leukaemia and Alzheimer’s disease”.

Quintiles already has established capabilities in genomics- and biomarker-based discovery and research. General genomic analyses are provided by Quintiles Global Central Laboratories, while the company’s Translational R&D Oncology group offers innovative genomic technologies to drive novel biomarker discovery and support more intelligent, data-driven clinical trial design and implementation.

Last November, Quintiles formed a strategic alliance with UK non-for-profit London Genetics to help biopharmaceutical companies take advantage of pharmacogenetics solutions including novel biomarker and assay development services.