In a First, Qiagen Turns Focus to Prenatal Testing

Qiagen, known for its oncology offerings, is set to develop assays for the non-invasive prenatal testing market through a $40 million collaboration with Natera.

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Qiagen will enter into the non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) market through a new partnership with its longtime customer, Natera. Up until now, Hildern, Germany-based Qiagen has been solely focused on the oncology market.

“We’ve always felt that to have a leading and winning solution we need to focus on the content,” Jonathan Arnold, Vice President, Head of Oncology & Precision Diagnostics at Qiagen, told MD+DI. “It’s not just about the sequencer or solution, it’s about what that system is actually sequencing. This partnership with Natera also allows us to move outside of oncology." 

The collaboration specifically calls for San Carlos CA-based Natera to develop cell-free DNA assays for use on Qiagen’s GeneReader NGS System.

Natera’s Constellation software would also be accessible for users of these and other assays in combination with the Qiagen Clinical Insights bioinformatics solution.

“The deal that we’ve done with Qiagen is a $40 million deal initially, with the opportunity to earn additional revenue from ongoing royalties,” Steve Chapman, COO of Natera, told MD+DI.

The new NIPT assays will analyze non-invasive maternal blood samples and reflect the power of liquid biopsy to gain insights.  Building on Qiagen’s PAXgene blood cell-free DNA collection and sample processing technology, which is fully automated and integrated into the GeneReader NGS workflow, the tests are expected to selectively differentiate fetal placental DNA from the background of the mother’s DNA to test whether a baby is at higher risk for common genetic conditions. The Sample to Insight workflow will also provide personalized risk reports for healthcare and genetic counseling.

Chapman said the pact with Qiagen would greatly enhance and broaden the scope of Natera’s distribution capabilities.

“With the Qiagen GeneReader, [Qiagen] is going to commercialize an NIPT assay based on Natera’s technology and is going to make that assay globally available through their extensive reach through hospital systems throughout the world," Chapman said. "[Qiagen] is going to bring this test to a significant number of labs and systems within their reach.”

The collaboration would not impact any of the previous partnerships Natera has had in place. In particular, Natera signed an agreement back in 2013 to run its NIPT Panorama on San Diego-based Illumina’s HiSeq 2500.

“We have a strong relationship with Illumina,” Chapman said. “I think globally we are going to be distributing our NIPT capabilities with Qiagen and they will continue to be available to Illumina customers as they are today.”

Qiagen could also look for partnerships outside of the NIPT space from other companies in the future. Most recently, the company partnered with Angle, a cell diagnostics company.

“I would never rule out additional partnerships in other market segments, because we’ve always felt like we want to partner with the top companies,” Arnold said.

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