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Owkin Enters Collaboration Agreement With MSD to Develop AI-Powered Diagnostics For Cancer

Owkin, a French-American biotechnology company that applies artificial intelligence (AI) to drug discovery, development, and diagnostics, have announced that it has entered into a collaboration agreement with MSD, the trade name of Merck & Co Inc., Rahway NJ USA to develop and commercialise AI-powered digital pathology diagnostics for the EU market.

Clinical trials have shown that the MSI-H tumour phenotype has potential prognostic and therapeutic importance, especially with the increased application of immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapies. As such, MSI-H has become an important genomic biomarker with applications across several types of cancer. As a result, testing for MSI-H is now recommended by consensus guidelines internationally.

Meriem Sefta, Chief Diagnostics Officer, said, “This strategic alliance with MSD is focused on improving the way patients are diagnosed and receive treatment, advancing our shared mission of supporting healthcare providers in their adoption of innovative digital diagnostics. It is clear that there is a need for AI diagnostics that can both ease bottlenecks and resource pressures while also ramping up biomarker testing to match patients with optimal treatments.” 

This collaboration seeks to develop a pre-screening procedure to improve testing rates for MSI-H in endometrial, gastric, small intestinal, and biliary cancers. In these cancer types, MSI-H prevalence is low and MSI-H screening is not routinely performed. The collaboration will initially be focused in the European Union.

“The application of AI technologies holds tremendous potential in the screening of patients and the diagnosis of disease,” said Scott K. Pruitt, associate vice president and head, Translational Oncology, MSD Research Laboratories. “We look forward to working with the Owkin team toward harnessing this opportunity to identify more patients with MSI-H cancers who may benefit from ICI therapy.”

Owkin, which currently has the only MSI digital pathology diagnostic CE-marked in colorectal cancer, will extend the development of its MSI-H AI diagnostics into four new cancer types, leveraging multimodal patient data from multiple academic centers and hospitals.


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