GHS researchers play key roles at upcoming ACMG conference
Two Geisinger Health System researchers will be in the spotlight at the 2014 American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics conference in Nashville, TN.
Monica Giovanni, a senior genetic counselor and clinical investigator with the Genomic Medicine Institute, will moderate a plenary session on Moving the Field Forward: Sharing Data to Better Interpret Genomic Variation and Obtain Comprehensive Phenotypes, on Friday, March 28, at 9 a.m.
This panel will discuss the fact that improving technologies and dropping costs are allowing for genomic sequencing in the clinical and research settings. With each genome or exome, novel variation is discovered and must be interpreted. The Clinical Genome Resource, ClinGen, has established a consortium of researchers to establish standards in variant interpretation, defining clinical relevance, data gathering and sharing through ClinVar, and documentation of phenotypes through clinician engagement.
A key participant in this panel will be David H. Ledbetter, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, who will speak on Recording Genomic Variation and Defining Clinical Relevance.
Geisinger genomics researchers take leading role in Clinical Genome Project
Four Geisinger Health System researchers have taken center stage in the national arena of genomics thanks to new funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute, an arm of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Full story
Marc Williams, MD, director of Geisinger's Genomic Medicine Institute, is a co-editor of a special edition of Genetics in Medicine on Genomics in Electronic Medical Records. Williams and Joseph Kannery, MD, from Mt. Sinai Medical Center, brought together a series of articles looking at how to integrate genomics in clinical care.
Researchers collaborate in new study
Two Geisinger researchers, David Ledbetter, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, and W. Andrew Faucett, MS, CGC, Director of Policy and Education, Office of the Chief Scientific Officer, are collaborators in a new clinical study looking at the prenatal diagnosis of genetic defects. Mr. Faucett noted, "With the rapid changes in prenatal testing options, we hope that the website www.prenatalarray.org will allow families from around the world to learn about prenatal testing options and share information about their children to help us better understand chromosomal changes."
Cigna to require genetic testing
Cigna Corporation will be the first US health insurer to require genetic counseling before it pays for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer testing. Full story
Williams joins HMORN Governing Board
Marc Williams, MD, has joined the HMORN Governing Board. Dr. Williams is a trained pediatrician, board certified clinical geneticist, and Director of Geisinger's Genomic Medicine Institute. His research has examined the impact of family history on provider experience; the role of informatics tools for clinicians on genetic topics; the impact of tumor-based screening for Lynch syndrome; the use of query tools to obtain information on genetic conditions from electronic data; and implementation of evidence-based best practices in genetics and genomics. Dr. Williams succeeds Dr. Steve Steinhubl who ably served in the role over the past year.
The HMO Research Network is an organization of HMO research programs whose mission is to use collective scientific capabilities to integrate research and practice for the improvement of health and health care among diverse populations.
High court patent ruling see as win for patients
DANVILLE, Pa. - Geisinger Health System's chief scientific officer believes the June 13 unanimous Supreme Court ruling that human genes cannot be patented is a win for scientists and doctors, but most importantly a major victory for patients.
David H. Ledbetter, PhD, FACMG - a plaintiff in the case - said the decision struck down major barriers to patient care and medical innovation.
"This ruling is going to improve access, reduce costs, and allow for innovation that wouldn't have happened otherwise," Dr. Ledbetter said. "This will be one of those wonderful occurrences in medicine where we improve quality and reduce costs simultaneously and immediately."
The high court's ruling specifically threw out patents previously held by Myriad Genetics Inc., a Salt Lake City-based company that had patented a genetic test for two BRCA genes associated with increased risks for breast and ovarian cancers
Dr. Ledbetter was one of the first individual genetics experts to sign on as a plaintiff in the historical case when approached by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) prior to their filing. Additional plaintiffs include the Association of Molecular Pathologists (AMP) and other medical professional associations, on behalf of researchers, patients and women's health groups.
"Fourteen years ago, I sat on the board of directors of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics and we wrote a clear and strong position statement that said genes should not be patentable because they occur in nature and naturally occurring substances should not be patented," Dr. Ledbetter stated, a principle shared by the nation's highest court.
"We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," said Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the court's unanimous decision.
"Genetic test monopolies are bad for a variety of reasons," Dr. Ledbetter added. "There's no incentive for companies to improve the quality of tests or offer them cheaper. Myriad had maintained a private database and withheld data from the international scientific community which shares data to better understand mutations in order to accelerate clinical research and provide patients the best treatment approach."
"Yesterday was a pretty big day," he said.
AMA supports public access to genetic data
The American Medical Association has adopted a policy that encourages companies, laboratories, researchers and healthcare providers to publicly share data on genetic variants and the clinical significance of those variants through a system that provides patient and provider safety.
The policy change was made on June 18, just days after the US Supreme Court unanimously decided that genes cannot be patented. "On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that genetic information is not patentable, this policy urges collaboration and data sharing with privacy protections to advance genomic medicine," said AMA Board Member William Kobler, MD. "Genetic analyses done collectively with the ability to compare genetic variants and analysis will allow researchers and health care professionals to more quickly identify and adopt advances in genomic medicine to benefit patients."
The Smithsonian Institution has opened a state-of-the-art exhibition about genome science. "Genome: Unlocking Life's Code" is a partnership of the Smithsonian and the National Human Genome Research Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health. Using 3D models, interactive exhibits, animations and videos, the 2900 square-foot exhibition looks at the benefits and challenges of genomic medicine. The museum link is www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/genome and a special website linked to the project is http://www.unlockinglifescode.org/ .
In 2012, the Human Genome Project and related research generated $65 billion into the US economy, supported 152,000 jobs and was responside for $19 billion in personal income, according to the update to a report issued in 2011. The Battelle report was updated in 2013 to show the continuing impact of genomics on the US economy. Click for more information on the report.
A genetic revolution has started in the use of whole genome sequencing for precision medicine, but there's still a lot of work to be done. Marc Williams, MD, director of the Genomic Medicine Institute at Geisinger, spoke in November 2012 to the Lennox K. Black International Prize for Excellence in Biomedical Research - 7th Symposium, Individualized Medicine, at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. An article based on his talk can be found starting at page 42 at this link: http://tinyurl.com/LBlackSymp.
While many people are undergoing genetic testing for breast cancer, they are not taking advantage of genetic tests that could indicate increased risk for other cancers. A recent study in France shows that testing for Lynch Syndrome, which increases the risk of colorectal cancer, is underused.
Angelina Jolie, actress and director, underwent a prophylactic mastectomy recently after finding she had a high risk for breast cancer. Her op-ed commentary in The New York Times discusses her decision and the high cost of BRCA testing in the United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether a private company can own a piece of your body. Myriad Genetics has a patent on 2 genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer. This means that they can (and have) placed restrictions on who conducts research on the genes, which limits scientific progress in understanding these diseases. This animated video illustrates the threats to health, patients' rights and scientific research that are at stake in the court case Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics. The video can be seen at www.aclu.org/brca or www.aclu.org/brca-court. It's also on YouTube at http://youtu.be/ywj_a0Mulvk.
Marc Williams, MD, director of Geisiginer's Genomic Medicine Institute, is co-author of an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The search for the breast cancer genes, BRCA 1 and 2, is about to be a major motion picture. Click for story.
Area paper notes GMI recognition in Clarity Challenge. Click for story.
Why We Have a Right to Consumer Genetics
MIT Technology Review, Jan. 2, 2013
Click for story
Click for genomics news archive (2010 - 2012)