This is, if memory serves, the fourth recent deal Merck has signed — related to “companion” diagnostic test kits production. And I think only one other one was for oncology related new drug candiates. [The other two sought the largely the same sorts of diagnostic tests, albeit in the HIV, and Hep C spaces, respectively.]
In any event, there is now an overall master framework agreement between Dako, an EU based unit of Agilent Technologies, and Merck, under which Dako will create diagnostic test kits for Whitehouse Station. It is likely that there will be a new diagnostic test for each of Merck’s newer oncology candidate therapies. The goal of using an early diagnostic kit to screen trial participants is to select the oncology patients who are most likely to benefit from the drug candidate being studied. This is, in some ways, a form of “stacking the deck,” for better trial results — and yet, in many other ways, it is excellent and humane medical practice — getting the best match to the best patient, for hopefully the best outcome, in fighting cancers that haven’t responded to current generation, on-market, therapies.
Here’s a bit from the Fool’s version of the Dako announcement, of late Thursday:
. . . .The agreement with Merck calls for Dako to develop “companion diagnostic tests” for cancer-fighting drugs. The companion tests developed will be for oncology drugs in Merck’s development pipeline, Dako said. Companion diagnostics, according to Dako, are especially useful in determining the appropriate oncology therapy based on an individual patient’s needs. . . .
We will keep you posted, but this is not likely to have any material impact for quite a long time. So do sleep well, now.