8 Companies Developing Liquid Biopsy Cancer Tests
Cancer blood tests, or “liquid biopsies” as they are called, promise to be a huge niche in molecular diagnostics (MDx). Cowen & Co estimates that using DNA blood tests for cancer screening will be a $10 billion a year market in just 4 years. Illumina just announced that they are developing a universal blood test to identify early-stage cancers in people with no symptoms of the disease. The Illumina venture is called “Grail”, and has taken in more than $100 million in Series A financing from investors that include ARCH Venture Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures and Bezos Expeditions.
With Illumina having worked on this project for 18 months already, competing companies in this space should be worried. While over 38 companies are actively targeting this space, the below chart from Piper Jaffrey shows 6 key players that we’ll take a closer look at:
Myriad Genetics (NASDAQ:MYGN)
We first wrote about Myriad in November of 2014, and since then the stock price is up +28% giving the Company a market cap of nearly $3 billion. Myriad’s initial product was a 25-gene genetic test called myRisk that identifies an elevated risk for eight important cancers using just a simple blood sample. Since then, the Company has developed an entire suite of “liquid biopsy” tests. Here’s where the company wants to be in 2020:
Those are some lofty goals, but Myriad has been making some good progress towards them. Revenues for Q3 2015 were $183 million which was down slightly from the previous quarter. Over 90,000 physicians have ordered Myriad’s tests, with over 2 million tests being performed so far.
Founded in 2009, Oncocyte is developing non-invasive liquid biopsy diagnostic tests in areas of high unmet need in oncology, specifically the 13-16 million lung and breast cancer patients. With an IPO taking place just several weeks ago, the Company must be wondering if their timing couldn’t have been any worse. Investors who bought shares the first day of that IPO would have lost more than -50% of their investment in just 14 days resulting in a market cap for OCX of just $104 million. Oncocyte has yet to generate any revenues.
Founded in 1993, Austin based Vermillion has lost -78% of their share price value in the past 5 years giving the Company a market cap of just $86 million. Vermillion has developed the first FDA-cleared, multi-biomarker blood test that helps assess the risk of ovarian cancer prior to surgery. The Company brought in minuscule revenues in Q3 2015 making investors wonder just when this product offering will take off.
Since their market debut in 2013, VCYT is down over -50% giving the Company a market cap of just $171 million. Veracyte’s liquid biopsy tests are targeting lung and thyroid cancer, two diseases that often require invasive procedures for an accurate diagnosis. The Company has shown strong revenue growth along with equally strong operating losses. 2014 showed revenues of $38 million on losses of $29 million.
Foundation Medicine (NASDAQ:FMI)
While their first product “FoundationOne” required an actual tissue biopsy, their second product “FoundationOne Heme” is a liquid biopsy which was released after we first wrote about Foundation Medicine back in March of 2014. We also wrote about Foundation more recently in January 2015 when their share price soared +95% on the back of a strategic partnership with Roche. While we hoped that partnership would establish a support level for the stock, it didn’t. Since then, FMI as sunk -65% giving the Company a current market cap of $560 million. Revenues appear to be steadily growing over time, with Q3 2015 revenues coming in at around $25 million.
Genomic Health (NASDAQ:GHDX)
Since their market debut in 2005, this $1 billion market cap company has returned +166% compared to a NASDAQ return of +113% over the same time frame. Similar to Foundation Medicine, Genomic Health has made a strong business of detecting cancer in tissues obtained from biopsies using their Oncotype DX test suite which brought in revenues of $275 million in 2014. In January of 2015, the Company announced their intention to release a liquid biopsy test in 2016 which they would price much lower than their Oncotype DX test which is priced at around $4,500.
We first wrote about Biocept in May 2014 and since then the stock is down over -60% giving the Company a market cap of just $30 million. Biocept is developing their OncoCEE platform which claims to offer 10-100X the sensitivity of competing platforms in detecting cancer mutations in the bloodstream. While the stock price languishes, Biocept continues to strengthen their patent portfolio and sign commercial agreements. Revenues last quarter continue to be minuscule.
While not mentioned in the above chart from Piper Jaffrey, Guardant is a company we wrote about in March 2014 which is developing the GUARDANT360, a test that looks for tumor DNA which is shed into the bloodstream for almost every type of cancer. Just last week, Guardant closed a massive funding round of $100 million, the same amount of money put forward by Illumina to launch Grail. Guardant360 is currently being used by 20,000 patients with cancer per year at a price point of $5,400.
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