By Stephanie Murg, Managing Director, G2 Intelligence
What does the lab of the future look like? This question was addressed by a broad range of experts at G2 Intelligence’s Lab Revolution 2015 conference, held March 11-13 in Orlando, Florida. Among the speakers from across the health care industry who considered the coming challenges and opportunities for laboratory medicine and pathology was Denis Gallagher, Vice President of Operations for Quest Diagnostics (Madison, N.J.). Rather than look to a crystal ball or prevailing trends, Gallagher focused his presentation on Quest’s new, state-of-the-art clinical test laboratory in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
Slated to be fully operational—with a staff of approximately 1,350 employees—within the next few months, the “lab of the future,” as Quest dubbed the 200,000-square-foot facility upon its October 2014 grand opening, is part of the company’s vision to “empower health with better diagnostic health insights,” explained Gallagher. “Our purpose is to go from data to insight to actions that transform lives.”
Distinguished by innovative technology and building design, the lab houses operations of six Quest laboratories formerly spread across Massachusetts and Connecticut, including that of Athena Diagnostics, the esoteric laboratory specializing in testing for neurological disorders that was acquired by Quest in 2011. The Marlborough lab is also the base for a research and development center, Quest’s first in New England and its third in the United States. The R&D center will focus on advanced technologies, including next-generation sequencing, neurology, and reproductive genetics.
Additional capabilities will include bioinformatics and population-health analytics to mine the company’s national testing data. Initiatives such as these will be supported in part by a dozen physicians and medical faculty employed by UMass Memorial Medical Group and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Their involvement is an extension of a relationship formed in 2013, when Quest acquired UMass Memorial’s clinical and anatomic pathology outreach business in Worcester. “We wanted to make sure that we could advance laboratory medicine,” noted Gallagher of the academic support.
Advanced automation plays a key role in Quest’s Marlborough facility. “We wanted a strategic partnership with a supplier as well as the ability to interconnect high-volume instrument platforms from different suppliers,” said Gallagher. The customized automation system was developed with Siemens Healthcare and manufactured by Turin, Italy-based Inpeco. With the accessioning processes included in the system, which includes a track that stretches to 600 feet in length, “Once it leaves the processing step, we don’t touch it ever again.”
Quest is looking to the lab of the future to boost efficiency, reduce testing costs, and improve outcomes. “Let’s face it, we’re a publicly traded company,” noted Gallagher. “We don’t make such a major investment unless there is a real return on that investment.”