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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Advancing Liquid Biopsies




The rise of liquid biopsies has ushered in many exciting new opportunities, particularly in oncology-focused applications relevant to pharmaceutical scientists engaged in drug discovery and development pipelines. While the term ‘liquid biopsy’ has been applied to circulating tumour cells and other analytes, it is generally associated with the analysis of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) that is shed from solid tumours and derived from peripheral blood.

Before the introduction of liquid biopsies, scientists were usually limited to working with tissue biopsy samples. These required invasive, often painful medical procedures and frequently yielded inevaluable samples. The idea of monitoring patients frequently – such as collecting tumour biopsies at every treatment cycle to gauge treatment response – was unthinkable.

Now, scientists can ask questions that have never been possible before and monitor tumour evolution in near real time. Implementing liquid biopsies, requiring only a simple blood draw from patients, has suddenly made it feasible to gather new information from patients on a regular basis and over long periods of time. Thanks to the next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies used to analyse these blood samples, liquid biopsy assays can have remarkable sensitivity and specificity while evaluating thousands of potential mutation sites. They can detect not only single nucleotide variants and insertions and deletions (indels), but also more complicated mutations such as gene fusions and copy number variations. Already, this has fundamentally changed how researchers can evaluate treatment response, detect tumour progression with the rise of resistance mutations, and monitor patients longitudinally.

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Mark Li serves as President and CEO of Resolution Bioscience. He is a serial investor and entrepreneur who is now focused on applying startup methodologies from the tech industry to develop better medical devices. Earlier in his career, he founded Yahoo! Europe and was responsible for starting and overseeing engineering operations for Yahoo! in 23 countries. Mark also pioneered early desktop publishing in the book, magazine, and multimedia CD-ROM industry while at Ziff-Davis Publishing. He earned his BSc in zoology/ animal biology from the University of California, US.
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