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NoVA Startup Facilitates Molecular Profiling

Tuesday, November 26, 2013  
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George Mason University researcher Emanuel Petricoin and venture capitalist Dendy Young have partnered on a concierge medicine company, Perthera, aimed at bringing personalized cancer treatment to the community hospital setting.

The McLean, Va.-based firm launched in March,  and does not perform these analyses itself, Petricoin noted to ProteoMonitor, but, rather, provides its customers access to "best-in class" molecular profiling assays. Currently, the company offers patients exome sequencing from Foundation Medicine; genomic, proteomic, and immunohistochemical profiling from Caris Life Sciences; and phosphoproteomic profiling from Theranostics Health, where Petricoin is a co-founder and chairman of the scientific advisory board.

While in theory, patients and their physicians could contact these firms directly, the logistics involved make this impractical for most community hospital doctors.  "All of the things you have to do – organize the tumor biopsy, have the tumor sent out to the various companies, get the data back, aggregate that data, bank the tumor – there's really no infrastructure in place for that in the community setting," Petricoin said. This, he noted, is despite the fact that roughly 95 percent of tumors are treated in the community setting."So if you're out in the middle of Danville, Virginia, for instance, and you have cancer, you either have to go to someplace like Memorial Sloan Kettering or MD Anderson to get molecular profiling done, or else you don't get it done," he said.

Perthera's service is aimed at patients with advanced, progressing metastatic cancer and costs $5,500, none of which is currently reimbursed, Petricoin said, though he added that the company does work on flexible payment plans for patients unable to afford the fee. Billing for the tests themselves is handled by the individual assay companies.Beyond providing access to the assays, Perthera is also following patient outcomes, and, ultimately, the company hopes to build a molecular database that will allow it to determine which markers are performing best and to what extent the molecular profiles are improving patient response to treatment.

The company is currently running on start-up funding provided by Young and another investor and its board consists of Young and Petricoin. Additionally, Perthera has hired Michael Pishvaian, an assistant professor in hematology and oncology at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, as chief medical officer, and Howard Federoff, executive dean of Georgetown University School of Medicine, as a senior advisor.

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