Almac signs million-dollar deal over new breast cancer test

A mammogram showing a woman's breast in order check for breast cancer.
A mammogram showing a woman's breast in order check for breast cancer.

Craigavon-based pharmaceutical company Almac has signed a $9m deal with a Californian company to develop its breast cancer test in a move being hailed as a potential ‘game changer’.

Almac’s Diagnostics Business Unit came up with the ground-breaking DDRD test, which helps predict which patients are likely to benefit form chemotherapy treatment, over the course of four years.

The company has teamed up with Genomic Health which now has the rights to further develop and commercialise the test, which is hoped could help up to 200,000 patients in the US and Europe.

One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and while many respond well to treatment, Almac’s test allows doctors to assess those who are less likely benefit, possibly even suffering from unnecessary side-effects.

It is hoped the new test will be useful especially for high-risk breast cancer patients who are eligible for chemotherapy based on genetic tests.

Tests on the product will likely not be completed for at least 12 months, after which DDRD should become commercially available, the company said.

Paul Harkin, President and Managing Director of Almac Diagnostics, said the test could allow more personalised healthcare, ensuring patients are matched up with the best treatments for them.

CEO of the Almac Group Alan Armstrong said the deal could be a game changer, allowing money to be reinvested in further research at the Craigavon base.

Steven Shak, MD, Executive Vice President of Research and Development at Genomic Health, said the partnership provides great opportunities.

“Working with Almac, we have the opportunity to gain further insight on the role of DNA repair in drug efficacy, which may provide clinical utility to help select which breast cancer patients benefit from specific chemotherapy drugs and regimens,” said Mr Shak.

The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast, worked with Almac on the project, which was supported by Invest Northern Ireland.

Invest NI’s Chief Executive Alastair Hamilton congratulated the firm on the deal.

“It is great to see one of our home grown companies continue to compete and win business on a global scale,” he said. “Invest NI recognises the significant impact that Almac has made to the Life Sciences sector in Northern Ireland and to the wider economy given the number of high quality jobs that the company provides.

“Invest NI has worked closely with Almac for over 10 years to provide support for a number of its R&D projects. The company should be congratulated for its continued commitment to innovation, growth and export. It is an excellent example of how, despite our size, Northern Ireland possesses the knowledge, skills and drive to succeed globally.”