Saturday, March 22, 2008

Biogenetic tests get personal, wait for payments to follow

Biogenetic tests get personal, wait for payments to follow

Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal - by Chris Rauber

The first trick for makers of high-end biogenetic diagnostic tests for
AIDS, breast cancer and other diseases is to produce convincing clinical
results. The next hurdle is getting insurers -- either public, like
Medicare and Medicaid, or private -- to pay for the tests, which run
thousands of dollars each.

So far, only a handful of such high-priced assays are on the market, and
they're often tested in tandem with a drug aimed at the disease the test
focuses on. Experts say it will be years -- at least five to 10 --
before they become standard. But a dozen or more are in the pipeline,
with several Bay Area companies at or near the forefront.

Tests such as Trofile, designed by South San Francisco's Monogram
Biosciences Inc.
7966FA8836543A6A9F591F59B237937.html> to identify which strain of HIV
is present, or Oncotype DX, from Redwood City-based Genomic Health Inc,
which identifies breast cancer patients who are the best targets for
chemotherapy or other treatments, are considered by some observers to be
on the cutting edge of personalized medicine, which attempts to identify
patients who will benefit from a particular drug or type of

"If you think about drugs across all therapeutic areas, they only work
about 60 percent of the time, on average, and for cancer, they only work
about 25 percent of the time," says Kim Popovits, Genomic Health's
president. And when chemotherapy is used to treat early-stage breast
cancer, "it doesn't work at all in most women," she says.

Chris Rauber is a reporter at the San Francisco Business Times, an
affiliated publication.

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