North Carolina’s global precision health and gene therapy profile got a boost this week with the announcement that Swiss drug giant Roche will add $2.4 billion to the $1 billion it already invested, to buy gene testing company Foundation Medicine.

Foundation makes molecular diagnostic tests that identify alterations in patients’ cancers. The information allows doctors to match patients with treatments and clinical trials deemed most likely to benefit their individual profiles.

Foundation, founded in Cambridge, Mass., in 2010, opened a 50,000-square-foot precision health laboratory in Morrisville in 2016 that it is growing into what it calls a “key lab hub.” Foundation is expected to retain its name after the Roche takeover is completed by the end of the year.

Foundation President and COO Steven Kafka said the company chose to locate its high-profile lab in the Research Triangle area because of its “talent base” that includes not just scientists with expertise in testing, cancer research and genomics, but also people with skills in technology and customer service that the company needed.

“There is a tremendous community there already,” he said in a 2017 NCBiotech interview.

“This is important to our personalized healthcare strategy as we believe molecular insights and the broad availability of high-quality comprehensive genomic profiling are key enablers for the development of, and access to, new cancer treatments,” said Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO Daniel O’Day of the Foundation purchase.

So far Foundation has four products commercially available to physicians. Its flagship product, FoundationOne, tests solid tumors, as does its FoundationACT. By sequencing more than 300 genes in a sample, doctors can find mutations vulnerable to a given treatment.

Another, FoundationOne Heme, tests blood-based cancers and FoundationFocus tests ovarian cancers. More such tests are in the pipeline.

The companies said the buyout deal was approved by the boards of both companies.

Copyright NC Biotech Center