Robot-Based System Streamlines Genetic Testing

GeneExplorer performs a series of genetic tests on clinical samples and then stores results for each patient in an electronic medical record system.

A trio of companies is offering a genetic-testing system that sounds like the height of high tech. A robot will perform a series of genetic tests on clinical samples and then store results for each patient in an electronic medical record system specially designed to handle genomic information.

The process runs on an automated platform designed to require "limited user intervention," according to a statement released by the companies.

A chief attraction of the system, called GeneExplorer, is that hospitals will not need to send as many samples to separate genetic testing labs, and results of the tests will not need to be manually transferred to patient records. Because tests are performed in the hospital, results will be available faster.

GeneExplorer performs genetic tests using supplies and technologies from Correlagen Diagnostics, which currently provides reference lab services to hospitals. Much of the hardware for physically running samples through the genetic tests comes from Protedynes Radius robot. Finally, Cerner will distribute GeneExplorer and provide its own information technology product, Millennium Helix, which allows genomic information to be stored in and reported from electronic medical records.

Corralagen has tests covering more than 50 genes. Many of the tests run will be for so-called monogenic diseases, or diseases linked with a single gene. While many genetic tests work only when one "letter" in a gene is known to be misspelled frequently, the GeneExplorer system can run more sophisticated "full-sequence" tests, which read whole stretches of letters in a gene and are capable of detecting a wider array of problems.

The CEO of Corralegen, David Margulies, said in a statement that the system could also be very useful for scientific discovery because genetic results could easily be linked to a variety of conditions through information in electronic medical records.

"Integration with the Cerner Millennium platform creates unique opportunities to correlate sequence information with patient phenotypes, the essential activity that enables discovery," he said. GeneExplorer maintains a dynamic database of genetic variants and assesses how likely each variant is to be associated with disease.

J.P. Fingado, vice president and general manager at Cerner, said that these kinds of capabilities are essential for personalized medicine, or clinicians abilities to identify which treatments are the most likely to work for a particular patient.


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