As part of the deal, both the firms will develop assays that detect and simultaneously measure multiple genetic variants in a single tumor sample in a clinical trial setting.

Illumina chief medical officer Richard Klausner said: "The US government’s Precision Medicine Initiative, recently announced by President Obama, specifically outlines the need to expand genetically-based clinical trials as a key approach for developing better treatments for cancer."

The deal will comprise development of the diagnostic, worldwide regulatory approvals, and global commercialization, according to Merck Serono.

Merck Serono global business development head Susan Herbert said: "Our collaboration with Illumina around next-generation sequencing will enable us to perform genome studies at a pace unheard of a few years ago, and could lead to the development of several diagnostics.

"This collaboration will strengthen the position of Merck Serono as a global leader in precision medicine in oncology."