Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Myriad Genetics, seen here in this June 2013 file photo, is acquiring global diagnostics company, Crescendo Biosciences in a $270 million cash deal.

SALT LAKE CITY — A local genetics testing giant is acquiring a global diagnostics company that is leading out in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases common to the American public and throughout the world.

Officials at Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics hope that by expanding its base and incorporating novel protein-based diagnostics for monitoring disease activity, it can impact more lives.

In a Tuesday announcement, Myriad officials said it is planning to pay $270 million for California-based Crescendo Biosciences, a molecular diagnostics company dedicated to developing and commercializing quantitative blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

"Crescendo Bioscience fits well into our diagnostic portfolio that is focused on saving lives and improving the quality of life of patients across major diseases," said Peter Meldrum, Myriad president and CEO. He said the products from both companies pair well and promise a great future for the company.

Meldrum said Crescendo's core product, a quantitative protein-based test called Vectra DA, "represents a $3 billion global market opportunity for Myriad," which already markets its genetics testing products in the United States and abroad.

The tests help find gene mutations, of which Myriad can classify as harmful or benign. The company promises a less than two-week turnaround time for its tests, which is "essential where the technical results may guide surgical decisions," Meldrum said.

"Gene mutation classification is a numbers game and since we test hundreds of thousands of patients every year, we believe we will dramatically expand our mutation classification advantage and further widen the gap between Myriad and its competition," he said.

Crescendo, founded in 2002, also stands to benefit from Myriad's marketing plan and a 45-person international sales team already in place.

The company is "excited to join an organization with the reputation and track record of success that Myriad brings to the table," said Crescendo President William Hagstrom.

He said more than 23 million Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune disease, leading to more than $120 billion in health care expenditures annually, nearly double that spent on treating cancer patients. Specifically, rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1.5 million people in the United States and more than 2 million in Europe.

"These are lifelong, chronic, debilitating conditions that require decades of intervention and monitoring," Hagstrom said, indicating that Crescendo's Vectra DA can help.

The test identifies 12 biomarkers to provide a more complete picture of health that adapts with the patient's condition. It replaces an antiquated notion that rheumatologists physically squeeze and evaluate 28 joints in the body to arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Although there is no known cure, multiple therapies are available to help patients cope with rheumatoid arthritis. Each has widely differing levels of effectiveness and significant potential toxicities, according to Crescendo's website. Choosing the optimal treatment from among the many therapeutic alternatives is a tremendous challenge for physicians.

The Vectra DA "provides timely insights to effectively treat patients," Hagstrom said, adding that the risk for disability is high in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The test could help adjust patient therapies and possibly prevent irreversible joint damage.

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Myriad will take on Crescendo's 130 employees and plans to complete the deal before the end of its current fiscal year, pending regulatory approval and other closing items. Myriad also hopes to delve into new products with its new partner.

"We envision multiple opportunities over the next several years, where, as a combined company, we can expand our presence into international markets and provide new innovative products that help improve the lives of patients suffering from autoimmune diseases," Hagstrom said.

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