Imagine being able to monitor the spread of cancer with a single draw of blood. That might sound futuristic, but more than a two dozen companies already offer a test like that—known as a “liquid biopsy”—to better-monitor patients with late-stage cancer. And several, including Illumina-funded Grail and Guardant Health, are investing millions to develop a screening for cancer at its earliest stages.
The liquid biopsy market has the potential to be huge ($29 billion according to the bank Piper Jaffray), and help a lot of people. But in the past week alone, it’s also become clear that we’re likely to see a lot of drama between rival companies as they jostle for their piece of the pie:
• Shortly after announcing a move into liquid biopsies, Foundation Medicine filed a suit for patent infringement against its more established competitor Guardant Health.
• Meanwhile Guardant Health announced it would compete with Illumina’s Grail by kicking off development of a screening test for cancer. Guardant Health’s CEO Helmy Eltouky told me on Friday that his company has an edge on its chief rival because of its experience in the field: “Some things you can only know by doing.”