Cambridge, MA-based Foundation Medicine (NASDAQ: FMI) has built a business on analyzing cancer patient biopsies for the specific genetic alterations that might be fueling their disease. Now Foundation says, in a press release this morning, that it has received a U.S. patent that covers the “fundamental claims” of its technology.
It’s not immediately clear if the patent clears the way for Foundation to sue other companies in the cancer diagnostics field, which has exploded in the past few years. In a statement, Foundation CEO Michael Pellini (pictured) said, “We plan to evaluate strategies to maximize the value of this patent and our other intellectual property. That said, in leveraging this asset, we do not intend to block the use of methods covered by the patent in patient testing that may be offered by others.”
The stock market did not reflect anticipation of significant action. Foundation shares are down a tick this morning to $17.03, less than one percent lower than their opening price.
The promise of diagnosing cancer—especially from something as easily obtained as a small blood sample, or “liquid biopsy”—has driven several companies, backed with hundreds of millions of investments dollars, into the field.
For example, earlier this year privately held Guardant Health raised $100 million in a Series D round, Exosome Diagnostics raised $60 million in a Series B round, and genomic sequencing giant Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) helped launch Grail, which aims to screen for cancer at its earliest stages in people showing no outward signs of illness. Foundation, which has been majority owned by Roche since early 2015, launched its own liquid biopsy test this month.
The U.S. patent number is 9,340,830 and expires in 2032, according to Foundation. The company said in its statement it is pursuing patents outside the U.S. Xconomy has reached out to Foundation and others for comment, and will update this story as necessary.