Just over a fortnight after the companies signed a hepatitis C pact, Merck & Co has again teamed up with Roche, this time to develop cancer diagnostic tests.

The collaboration, the financial details of which were not disclosed, will focus on creating diagnostic assays for use with the US major's investigational cancer therapy portfolio. Merck added that the deal will also expand its use of Roche's investigational AmpliChip p53 assay in its clinical programmes "to stratify and identify patients suitable for inclusion in ongoing/planned trials".

Gary Gilliland, head of cancer research at Merck, said "effective use of companion diagnostics is an important component of our oncology development strategy focused on targeted therapies". Last month, the two drug giants joined up to sell Merck's recently-approved HCV drug Victrelis (boceprevir) and explore combination treatments for the disease.

Roche translational research tie-up

Staying with Roche, the Basel-based group has also signed a pact with the University of Geneva, Geneva University Hospitals and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics in translational medical research.

The partners say the initial focus will be on "basic research, bioinformatics and biomarker development in cardiology, haematology, pathology and applied human toxicology". Jacky Vonderscher, head of translational research sciences at Roche, said that "we consider Geneva as one of the few centres that combines the expertise of world-class specialists in the field of proteomics and bioinformatics, with a strong translational set-up between labs and the clinic".