Quest Diagnostics to add ctDNA detection technology with Haystack Oncology


Quest Diagnostics, an American diagnostic information services provider, has agreed to acquire early-stage oncology company Haystack Oncology in an all-cash deal worth up to $450 million in a move to add sensitive liquid biopsy technology for enhancing personalized cancer care to its oncology portfolio.

Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Haystack Oncology is focused on minimal residual disease (MRD) testing to aid in the early, accurate detection of residual or recurring cancer and better inform therapy decisions.

Established in 2021, Haystack Oncology has developed a ctDNA-based technology specifically designed for MRD detection that is based on twenty years of research and development conducted by Johns Hopkins University’s luminaries such as Dr. Bert Vogelstein, Dr. Nick Papadopoulos, and Dr. Ken Kinzler.

Last June, results of a prospective, multi-institution study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that the prior version of Haystack technology proved its ability to identify patients who have chronic disease that require adjuvant chemotherapy following treatment for colon cancer stage 2, thus decreasing the use of chemotherapy for the entire patients without compromising recurrence-free survival.

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After the conclusion of the acquisition, Quest Diagnostics anticipates adapting the MRD test developed by Haystack Oncology to serve as the foundation for new clinical laboratory services that will be available in 2024. Initial efforts to develop will focus upon MRD tests for breast, colorectal, and lung cancers.

The acquisition will make use of Quest Diagnostics’ knowledge and scale in genomics, oncology, and pathology.

Additionally, Quest Diagnostics’ experience in next-generation tumor sequencing is the ability to detect specific mutations in patients for Haystack Oncology’s cancer-informed MRD method.

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Jim Davis — Quest Diagnostics Chairman, CEO, and President said: “We are excited by the opportunity to work together with Haystack Oncology, a company that we believe has developed a best-in-class ctDNA MRD technology.

“Haystack’s liquid biopsy technology, combined with Quest’s strengths in screening, pathology and sequencing, will now position us to lead in the fast-growing MRD category. Working with Haystack, we have an opportunity to broaden access to MRD insights and potentially improve favorable long-term outcomes from cancer.”

As per the terms of the deal, Quest Diagnostics, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will pay $300 million at closing followed by an additional payment of up to $150 million, which will be contingent on performance milestones in the future.

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Dan Edelstein — Haystack Oncology CEO and President said: “Combining Haystack with Quest is a major step forward in translating two decades of world-class liquid biopsy research and development into clinical laboratory services that are highly reliable and broadly accessible. Like looking for a needle in a haystack, accurately detecting MRD has been very challenging to date.

“With Quest, we expect to increase and accelerate access to important tests that will improve the quality of cancer MRD detection and recurrence monitoring for patients. Working together, we have the potential to greatly transform the patient journey and save lives.”

The deal, which is conditional on customary regulatory review, is likely to close in Q2 2023.

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