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The Path to Precision Medicine will be Paved in Diagnostics

Dean Li Conference


Diagnostics are “the gateway” to precision medicine. They are “absolutely critical,” and it’s critical that the science behind them be “precise, accurate and actionable,” emphasized Dean Li, M.D., Ph.D., at a University of Utah-sponsored “Frontiers in Precision Medicine” conference this month.

Li is President and CEO of ARUP Laboratories, one of the world’s leading national reference labs, birthed from the University’s pathology department some 30 years ago. The lab’s close ties with an academic medical center allow it to harness the University’s rich history in genetic discovery and the University, in turn, receives financial support to reinvest in research and support its educational mission.

“Mayo [Clinic] is perhaps the only other one like ourselves that has such a major entity [diagnostic laboratory] wholly owned by the university,” says Li, pointing out ARUP’s depth and breadth—3,000 employees, more than 3,000 tests, and some 10 million annual specimens resulting in diagnoses.

Li, a cardiologist familiar with the bedside experience of caring for patients and their families, points out those specimens represent some 6.5 million patients annually who are awaiting diagnosis and targeted treatment based on test results from ARUP. Stressing the need for greater collaboration to streamline targeted treatment and bring actionable care to patients, he said, “We need to consider the cycle time of innovation … can we go from discovery to diagnostics in one year?”

While genomics and genetics are often the focus, Li points out that precision medicine actually involves the whole spectrum of clinical laboratory testing. This “rebirth in gene therapy” is exciting, but he cautions, we need to be mindful that the science is actionable and accurate, while also taking into account costs and what is truly best for the patient. “No one knows exactly how this field is going to play out. No one knows what the true value of this information is yet,” says Li. “What we know is that we need to make sure we are exercising precise, accurate and actionable science, so we can produce precise, accurate and actionable therapies.”

By: Peta Owens-Liston

Peta Owens-Liston is a communications specialist for ARUP Laboratories