|Trends & Perspectives|
GE announced this fall its plan to invest $1 billion during the next five years on R&D programs aimed at detecting, diagnosing, and treating cancer faster and more effectively.
GE announced this fall its plan to invest $1 billion during the next five years on R&D programs aimed at detecting, diagnosing, and treating cancer faster and more effectively. GE’s primary focus is on detection and treatment of breast cancer, with an eye toward cancerous tumors of all kinds.
Ron Andrews, CEO of Clarient, a GE Healthcare company, believes $1 billion is the right amount at the right time. “We believe this number is something GE can digest, and it is significant enough from a critical-mass perspective that it allows us to do multiple things.” In order “to build the most relevant oncology company in the world,” Andrews told IVD Technology, “we have to attack cancer from multiple approaches.” He explained that one billion dollars allows the company to do plenty of R&D in imaging, as well as “to play on the IVD side and do some licensing and some of our own discovery.” Andrews also suggested that some of those dollars might go toward making some acquisitions to “really fill out our menu of testing that is necessary to give the full picture of a cancer at the molecular level.”
“It’s Time To Get Serious.” Ideally, five years from now, Andrews said, the company will have invested in a dozen or so different initiatives. Out of those dozen, there may be four or five very useful, valuable pieces of data that emerge, and GE will be ready to take new tests to market that will provide better ways to manage breast or solid tumors. “It’s time for us to get serious and put some urgency around what we can do for this disease,” he said.
|Ron Andrews, CEO, Clarient, a GE Healthcare company|
Andrews believes the real opportunity for his group is to find a partner in this process who can help with the goal of coming up with blood-based gene signatures, or “molecular signatures,” that will allow them to identify early onset of cancer and early recurrence of cancer. “And from that information,” he said, “physicians will apply a drug cocktail from the emerging therapeutics that are entering the market, so that we can truly make this disease chronic.We can have a significant impact on survival by catching tumors earlier and treating them with the right drug combination so that those tumors never go anywhere.”
A High-Stakes Challenge. As part of its renewed emphasis on providing improved and more innovative cancer detection and treatment, GE announced in mid-September its $100-million open innovation challenge. The Healthymagination Challenge is focused on finding new ideas that accelerate innovation in early diagnosis, patient stratification, and the personalized treatment of breast cancer. Specific subchallenges will be run during different portions of the challenge. Until November 20, 2011, the subchallenges are “Breast cancer pathways” and “Molecular similarities between tumors.” (Details on how to enter are available in the sidebar for this story.)
Andrews called the challenge “very exciting.” He explained: “A lot of the big discovery comes out of biotech companies that are venture funded, that usually spin out of an academic center, from people who are passionate about something, and they figure out a way to make it happen. So having this one hundred million from the Healthymagination fund to invest and make multiple bets allows us to really see the technology perform before we execute on it. It also encourages innovation in an area that we’ve made a lot of progress in, but that has plateaued in recent years. It’s time to get back at it.”
|A Clarient test lab. Clarient is a GE Healthcare company.|
One of the key goals of the challenge, Andrews said, is to look at sequences and proteomic output that relate to breast cancer that might have applications across multiple solid tumors, and determine how similar they are. Then, GE will figure out what useful information can be gleaned from that determination.
A sidebar for this story provides further details on how to submit ideas to GE's Healthymagination Challenge.