Northern Ireland

Almac and Genomic Health make breast cancer test deal

County Armagh pharmaceutical firm Almac has licensed a breast cancer test to a California firm in a move that the company said could be "game changing".

Genomic Health will pay an initial $9m (£5.6m) to secure rights to develop and commercialise the Almac technology.

Genomic will make further payments to Almac as future development and commercialisation targets are met.

The test should be commercially available once validation procedures have been completed.

The company says this process will take at least 12 months.

Genetic tests

The test helps predict which patients are likely to benefit from chemotherapy.

In the UK, early stage breast cancer patients are typically treated with anthracycline-based chemotherapy.

However, the specific benefit for an individual can be unclear, which means that many patients derive no benefit from the treatment and may suffer side-effects.

Almac said their test is expected to be particularly useful for high-risk breast cancer patients who are eligible for chemotherapy based on genetic tests.

Almac Group chief executive Alan Armstrong said the deal is "extremely significant for Almac's diagnostic business unit and to the group as a whole".

"Not only is it the first of its size for the team, but the potential revenue streams could be game changing in enabling us to reinvest in further research by our staff in Craigavon," he said.

Paul Harkin from Almac Diagnostics said the test was an example of "personalised healthcare".

"Individuals are matched with the treatments that will work best for them - thereby improving the clinical management of cancer patients," he said.

Genomic is a Nasdaq-listed firm that, in 2012, had revenues of $235m (£145m) delivering profits of just under $9m.