News at a Glance – Feb 2016

Few Hospitals Planning for Precision Medicine. Except for academic medical centers, few hospital executives see personalized medicine playing a significant role at their organization, according to a new nationwide survey, conducted by the analytics firm Health Catalyst. The survey revealed that more than two-thirds (67 percent) of non-academic executives see precision medicine as having no role, a small role, or an average role in their organization in the next five years. By comparison, 71 percent of academic health care executives see precision medicine as playing a "significant" role in their organization in the next five years. The majority of the 60-plus respondents to the 2015 online survey were health care executives including chief information officers, and chief medical officers, data-warehousing and analytics firm Health Catalyst says. When asked about the relevance of DNA sequencing to the individual organization’s patient treatment strategies, respondents’ answers again revealed a divide between academic and non-academic institutions. Nearly 100 percent of academic respondents declared DNA sequencing results to be relevant or very relevant to patient treatment strategies, compared to only 39 percent of non-academic center respondents. Not surprisingly, academic centers are more active in making plans to incorporate genomic data into electronic medical records. Nearly two-thirds of academic respondents (64 percent) said such plans were underway, compared to only 29 percent of non-academic respondents.

CDC and White House Address Zika Diagnostics. Feb. 5, the CDC reported that it and Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed the first case of the infection in the continental US involving an individual who hadn’t traveled to a country experiencing an outbreak of the virus. In that case, the infection was sexually transmitted. The CDC also issued interim guidelines indicating Zika testing can be offered to pregnant women 2-12 weeks after returning from outbreak locations, regardless of whether they have symptoms. Testing for the Zika virus is currently being performed at the CDC and four state health department laboratories and the CDC says it is working to expand laboratory diagnostic testing to additional states. Testing can be complicated by the fact that cross-reacting antibodies for other viruses such as dengue and yellow fever viruses may lead to false positive results for Zika. As to lab safety, the CDC advised in a January memo that the virus is classified as a biological safety level (BSL) 2 pathogen and "should be handled in accordance with Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) guidelines and a risk assessment performed for each laboratory for the specific procedures utilized."

Funding Supports ACMG Medical Geneticist Training. Shire committed $1.65 million to support the ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine training programs for medical geneticists during the next three years. "The partnership between Shire and the ACMG Foundation will help foster a generation of geneticists around the world who will play crucial roles in the diagnosis and care of patients with rare and common diseases." The funds will be used for 10 one- to two-year training fellowships for medical geneticists. "We have reached a critical juncture in terms of the integration of medical genetics into health care," said ACMG Foundation Executive Director, Michael S. Watson, PhD, FACMG. "Though geneticists are essential to the diagnosis and management of rare diseases and for the care of individuals with genetic conditions, we are faced with a significant deficit in the number of laboratory and clinical geneticists in the United States."

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