Companion Diagnostics? Or just better diagnostic guidance?

The BioScience Forum was held in South San Francisco Wednesday, 11/16 and I had the privilege of hearing Bob Curry speak.  He is the General Partner of the venture capital firm, Curry Henos Partners.  Bob has invested in over 40 companies, 14 in diagnostics, and, while he definitely sees the needs for diagnostic guidance for drug development companies as well as for physicians treating patients, he is very reluctant to call it companion diagnostics or personalized medicine.

Medical Tapestry

Image by ImageMD via Flickr

He does see that better diagnostics at all stages will improve results and offer cost savings at both the drug development phase – to weed out “loser” drugs and to identify the right population for  the drug.  For example, cancer drugs are known to be only 30% effective – meaning that 70% of the time they are a waste of money and are also damaging to patient beyond the cancer itself.  Most doctors are still using trial and error when choosing drugs for their patients (or relying on the insurance companies’ formularies).  The regulators want diagnostics and the payers don’t want to pay for no result or for a worsening condition.  On the other hand, diagnostics can add to the cost of treating a disease or condition.  But with the industry coming to terms with the unlikelihood of blockbusters and the need to find a way to market a “basket of middle size drugs”, the need for diagnostics will increase.

Bob gave examples of some diagnostics that proved cost efficient and which drastically improved patient safety in early labor and one in which the use of old drugs which were deadly in just a tiny part of the patient population but which were being greatly under-prescribed to the rest of that group.  Another diagnostic test done in a CLEA lab demonstrated susceptibility of any solid tumor to radiation and, while not a companion to a drug, certainly is a companion to a therapeutic treatment.

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