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UCSF, Quest Diagnostics to Partner on Precision Medicine

Medical data on tablet

(Univ of California, San Francisco)

Medical diagnostics provider Quest Diagnostics in Madison, New Jersey and University of California in San Francisco are researching new tests based on genetic and molecular indicators to better find genetic causes of developmental disorders like autism, and identify children with brain tumors who can best respond to treatments. The collaboration is the first for UCSF with a clinical lab company, but financial aspects of the agreement were not disclosed.

Under the deal, scientists from UCSF and Quest will jointly research new diagnostics to advance “precision medicine,” an emerging practice that integrates data from molecular and genetic tests, combined with population data and electronic medical records to provide medical solutions that meet a patient’s specific conditions and background. The company’s national Health Trends database, the largest private clinical database in the U.S., is expected to be a resource for the researchers. Quest will independently develop and validate diagnostic lab tests for clinical use that emerge as a result of the partnership.

UCSF and Quest say the collaboration will focus first on two joint projects already underway. The first initiative taps into Quest’s molecular testing database to identify genetic variations related to autism and other developmental disorders. Quest will make available data from tests to assess development delay or intellectual disability, particularly those determining genetic causes.

The second project is identifying biomarkers that help determine children with glioma brain tumors who would most likely benefit from a drug currently available to treat the disease. The study is expected to integrate molecular biomarker testing with MRI imaging technologies, as part of a larger project on management of brain cancer and neurological diseases.

The company says the collaboration combines Quest’s technology expertise with UCSF’s ability to validate its diagnostics through clinical research. “Advances in technology and science have identified many promising opportunities to improve outcomes through insights revealed by novel diagnostic solutions,” says Jay Wohlgemuth, Quest’s vice president for science and innovation, in a company statement. “Yet fulfilling the full potential of these opportunities often hinges on translational clinical studies which validate their value.”

UCSF is closely associated with precision medicine initiatives. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, who recently stepped down as chancellor of UCSF, co-chaired the committee that issued the National Academies report in 2011 calling for development of a national precision medicine data network that integrates genomic and patient data to address the underlying causes of disease rather than symptoms.

In December, the university unveiled a new specialty in clinical informatics designed to help physicians collect, synthesize, and present data to deliver patient care more safely and effectively. The new board certification is driven, says UCSF, by the explosion of data available in electronic health records and collected through mobile health applications.

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