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  • sam patrick posted an article
    MUSC researchers using genetics to tackle health disparities see more

    Compliments of Kaiser Health News

    Quenton Tompkins’ family tree is deeply rooted in rural McCormick County, South Carolina.

    His grandfather was a sharecropper in McCormick. His mother, who turns 88 this month, grew up as the youngest of 24 children. Branches of aunts, uncles, and cousins now stretch from Florida to Chicago.

    And although 48-year-old Tompkins has heard plenty of stories, his family holds its secrets, too.

    He didn’t know until he was an adult that his grandfather died of leukemia. And he’s still unsure if his father’s bout with prostate cancer runs in the family. Tompkins’ mother and her siblings have dealt with a range of health issues, including diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes, but he still doesn’t know what killed his grandmother more than 70 years ago.

    “Those are questions I go through personally,” said Tompkins, a lobbyist for the Medical University of South Carolina. “There’s another side to knowing where you come from.”

    Twenty-two years ago, President Bill Clinton announced the completion of a “draft version” of the Human Genome Project, a breakthrough he described as “the language in which God created life.” He predicted that scientists, armed with genetic discoveries, would find cures for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes in the coming years.

    Clinton’s prediction, of course, hasn’t yet come to pass. But researchers in Charleston are hopeful that a large genetics research project underway across South Carolina may help scientists address some of the state’s persistent health disparities, which disproportionately impact its Black residents and regularly rank among the nation’s worst.  Enjoy the rest of this article compliments of Kaiser Health News.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Systems allow for a more comprehensive look into biological networks see more

    No single gene causes uterine cancer, the fourth most common cancer among women, which is on the rise in the U.S.

    That’s why Clemson University geneticist Allison Hickman’s research focused on identifying networks of genes involved in uterine cancer that could be potential targets for more effective drug therapies.

    The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 66,000 women in the U.S. receive uterine cancer diagnoses this year. More than 12,500 women will die from the disease in 2022. 

    Using data from publicly available genomic databases, a mathematics-based distribution algorithm and  Knowledge Independent Network Construction (KINC) software developed by her professor Alex Feltus in collaboration with Clemson alumnus and current Washington State University Assistant Professor Stephen Ficklin, Hickman built condition-specific biomarker systems for normal uterine tissue and two subtypes of uterine cancer — endometrial cancer, the most common type, and uterine carcinosarcoma, which is more rare, aggressive and deadly. 

    These systems allow for a more comprehensive look into the biological networks and pathways affected in uterine cancer than single-gene analyses done in previous studies.

    “We’re looking for patterns. In this study, we were able to distinguish genes that had different relationships in uterine cancer than they did in normal uterine tissue,” said Hickman, who earned her Ph.D. in genetics from Clemson in December. “The ultimate goal is to gain a better understanding of what’s happening biologically at the cellular level in these cancers so it can lead to better treatment in the future.”

    No one gene determines whether a person will develop cancer. Rather, it’s a complex system of genes.

    Hickman’s study found 11 high priority genes associated with uterine cancer. Those genes are potential targets for drug therapies.

    “We have the power now, for the first time in the history of science, to look at the entire system and find the pieces that are broken and then to begin to fix them. It’s not about finding the silver bullet for one gene,” Feltus said. “It’s about finding the cocktails from a treatment perspective for sets of genes.”

    Feltus used a spider web as an analogy. If you want to get rid of the web, you can clip one strand of the spider web, but it’s not likely to go away. But if you hit enough points on the spider web, the web will collapse. 

    The work of Hickman and other researchers in the field is important because scientists can see if therapeutics approved for other types of cancer target the same “broken genes.” 

    “Ultimately, and this is the true holy grail, if we know there are x number of broken genes in a patient’s uterine cancer, we can adjust those genes with small doses of drugs that target all of those broken genes at the same time as opposed to with one giant nuclear bomb of poison like a lot of cancer drugs we have right now,” Feltus said.

    “One hundred years from now, there will be drugs that interact with most of the genes, so you’ll be able to design cocktails based on the genetic profile of the tumor,” he said.

    Hickman first compiled data from two online public databases for genomic information: The Cancer Genome Atlas and the National Institutes of Health Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx project. She used Gaussian mixture models to build condition-specific gene co-expression networks for endometrial cancer, uterine carcinosarcoma and normal uterine tissue. She then incorporated uterine regulatory edges and investigated potential co-regulation relationships.

    Hickman said that approach allowed for analysis of genes involved in more than one biological process and therefore have multiple expression patterns.

    An article published in G3-Genes Genomes Genetics titled “Identification of Condition-Specific Biomarker Systems in Uterine Cancer” describes Hickman’s research. Other authors of the paper are Yuqing Hang and Rini Pauly.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    New DNA-based approach may be wave of the future see more

    Compliments of Greenville Business Magazine

    If your doctor knew your risk for colon cancer or heart disease years before the disease developed, he or she could help you take steps to prevent it.

    And by collecting DNA samples from thousands of South Carolinians, the Medical University of South Carolina is embarking on a project which hopes to do just that. 

    In the initiative, which stakeholders call the first of its kind in the state, MUSC is partnering with population genomics company Helix to study DNA to drive a concept known as precision medicine. It allows providers and patients to develop health care plans with a more preventive approach.

    The power in precision medicine cannot be overstated, said Dr. Lori McMahon, vice president and associate provost for research at MUSC.

    “Genes are what make us who we are,” she told Integrated Media, publisher of Greenville Business Magazine, Columbia Business Monthly and Charleston Business Magazine. 

    “What we learn here … will influence care for individuals across the country and across the globe.” 

    The earlier genes associated with a disease are found, the better the chances of successful treatment, said Dr. Dan Judge, professor of medicine and cardiology at MUSC and director of cardiovascular genetics.

    Theoretically, this concept might have helped “Black Panther” star and Anderson, S.C., native Chadwick Boseman, he said.

    Boseman died last year of colon cancer at the age of 43, seven years before traditional colonoscopy screening typically begins, he said. 

    Had he learned through DNA testing that he had a propensity to develop the disease, that screening could have begun much earlier, perhaps in time to keep the cancer from progressing, he said.

    And a woman with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer might begin mammograms at an earlier age or get more sensitive MRIs instead, Judge said.

    “We hope we’ll be saving lives with this project,” he said. “That’s really the bottom line.”

    The project will focus on certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease initially, but hopes to expand to other diseases in time, McMahon said.

    Called “In Our DNA SC,” the project hopes to enlist 100,000 South Carolina adults – 25,000 a year for four years, Judge said.

    The initiative will start with MUSC patients who already have an electronic health record and an upcoming appointment, he said. They will get a message through MyChart to let them know they’re eligible. Later, it will expand across South Carolina.

    “It won’t be something that private physicians can order directly,” he said. “This program requires people to sign up through a review board process so that it’s gone through protocol, and safety and confidentiality issues are all addressed.”

    Similar programs have identified as many as one in 75 participants who were at risk for a serious health issue, 90 percent of which would not have been discovered through traditional practice, said Dr. James Lu, CEO and co-founder of California-based Helix, which describes itself as a population genomics company at the intersection of clinical care, research and genomics.

    “By expanding access and making genomic data actionable for health care providers,” he said, “we will be able to work in tandem with MUSC … to identify risk earlier and prevent or mitigate serious diseases for its community and beyond.”

    The popularity of companies like 23andme shows that people want to understand their genetics, McMahon said.

    “People are even buying DNA kits for their dogs,” she said.

    The genetic test is free to participants and involves only a saliva sample.

    Genetic counseling will be provided to patients whose DNA reveals a risk for disease so there can be further discussion of what it means for the patient and for family members who might be at risk as well, he said.

    In addition to the clinical component, the project has a research component that will develop a dataset to advance genomics research.

    It also will examine how genetic changes influence the development and progression of disease, McMahon said, and help in the development of new and better therapeutics. 

    For instance, some people respond to certain blood pressure medications while others don’t, but it’s not understood why.

    “This will help us try to understand the genetic basis for that,” she said, “and who may need alternate therapy.” 

    Caroline Brown, chief of external affairs at MUSC, said the hospital system and Helix took steps to ensure that patient data are secure. While the results are linked to the patient’s medical record so his provider has access to them, the information is de-identified for research purposes, she said.

    The genetic results will be entered into the participants’ medical records, like a chest X-ray or MRI results are, where they are available to insurers, Judge said.

    While there is a law called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act that protects people from health insurance or employment discrimination on the basis of genetics, information in medical records can be used to deny life insurance or charge more for it, he said. Patients will be informed of that as part of the consent form for participation, he said.

    Brown said that as a state academic medical center, MUSC is focused on building its genomics prowess to ensure it can be a leader in precision medicine in the future. It chose to partner with Helix because of its established data analytics platform which is capable of large-scale projects like this, she said.

    “MUSC looked for a strategic partner to offer genetic testing that can be provided to the patient and his provider so they better know how their genetic makeup impacts their health,” she said. 

    MUSC has identified funding for the program, Brown said, but she declined to divulge the cost.

    McMahon said that when patients and providers are armed with genetic information, they can make better decisions about care going forward and push health care to a new level.

    “This is the way of the future,” she said.

    And Judge said he expects it will likely be routine within 20 years. 

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Large-scale initiative will advance innovative research, improved health outcomes see more

    CHARLESTON, S.C. and SAN MATEO, Calif., (Sept. 20, 2021) – The Medical University of South Carolina  (MUSC) and Helix have announced a strategic collaboration to develop a first-of-its-kind population genomics initiative in South Carolina called In Our DNA SC. The large-scale program is designed to improve health care outcomes by integrating genetic insights into clinical care and research. The statewide initiative will enroll 100,000 patients in genetic testing over the next four years at no cost to the patient.

    The program will enable the use of genomic insights with an initial focus on actionable information regarding a patient’s risk for certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The genetic reports will allow patients and their health providers to develop precision health care plans to proactively mitigate the conditions and take a more preventive approach to patient care. Patient enrollment in In Our DNA SC is expected to begin in the fall.

    In addition, MUSC and Helix will be developing a robust clinico-genomic dataset from consenting participants that will help researchers learn what can cause certain diseases, how we may be able to treat them more effectively and, possibly, improve the standard care for everyone. This is expected to lay the groundwork for a broader collaboration with other organizations across the health care value chain.  

    “As South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic health sciences center, delivering the highest quality care throughout the state is our top priority,” said David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president. “Precision medicine is an emerging field that is going to transform the future delivery of health care. Being a leader and helping to define this path is core to our mission. We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with Helix to deploy this first-of-its-kind population genomic program for our patients. This collaboration will help drive preventive, precision health care for South Carolinians.” 

    The strategic relationship with Helix allows MUSC to leverage Helix’s unique Sequence Once, Query Often TM model and its end-to-end integration platform to enable immediate application and continual on-demand use of genetic insights throughout a patient’s life. By working with South Carolina’s only integrated academic health sciences center in the state, Helix gains access to thousands of providers and research staff dedicated to understanding how to deliver the highest quality patient care available to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond.

    “Large-scale population genomics initiatives like this have the potential to significantly improve a health system’s ability to deliver population and precision health insights to patients,” said James Lu, M.D., Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Helix. “In similar programs, as many as 1 in 75 participants have been found to be at risk for a serious health issue, of which 90 percent would not have been discovered through traditional practice. By expanding access and making genomic data actionable for health care providers, we will be able to work in tandem with MUSC, the no. 1 hospital in South Carolina, to identify risk earlier and prevent or mitigate serious diseases for its community and beyond.”

    Enrollment in the program will initially be available to patients who sign up at select MUSC clinics and locations, later expanding to participants throughout the community and state in collaboration with MUSC’s clinical affiliates and partners. Additionally, participants who consent to securely contribute their genetic data will help MUSC develop one of the largest clinico-genomic datasets in the country. Analyses from this platform will be used to pioneer and further advance genomics research. 

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    About the Medical University of South Carolina 

    Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is home to the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center, with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.

    As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality and safe patient care while training generations of compassionate, competent health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Close to 25,000 care team members provide care for patients at 14 hospitals with approximately 2,500 beds and 5 additional hospital locations in development, more than 300 telehealth sites and nearly 750 care locations situated in the Lowcountry, Midlands, Pee Dee and Upstate regions of South Carolina. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.

    MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $4.4 billion. The more than 25,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.

    About Helix

    Helix is the leading population genomics company operating at the intersection of clinical care, research, and genomics. Its end-to-end platform enables health systems, life sciences companies, and payers to advance genomic research and accelerate the integration of genomic data into clinical care. Powered by one of the world’s largest CLIA / CAP next-generation sequencing labs and the first and only FDA authorized whole exome sequencing platform, Helix supports all aspects of population genomics including recruitment and engagement, clinically actionable disease screening, return of results, and basic and translational research. In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, Helix has launched a sensitive and scalable end-to-end COVID-19 test system to meet the needs of health systems, employees, governments, and other organizations across the country. Learn more at helix.com

     September 24, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Genetic Center a key initiative at Clemson University see more

    Compliments of Scribble

    The sequencing of the human genome in 2000 gave rise to the vision of personalized medicine. Realizing the importance of this landmark achievement, Clemson University established Human Genetics as a major pillar of its long-term strategic ScienceForward plan. This vision was realized in 2016 with philanthropic support of Self Regional Healthcare and the Self Family Foundation, leading to the construction of Self Regional Hall on the Partnership Innovation campus of the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC). 

    Self Regional Hall is a 17,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility designed to provide a collaborative environment that is conducive to spontaneous interactions among students and faculty. The Clemson Center for Human Genetics was formally inaugurated in the facility on August 8, 2018.

    In the short period of three years, the Center for Human Genetics has flourished under the leadership of its inaugural director, Dr. Trudy Mackay.

    The Center started with two faculty — Dr. Mackay and spouse and long-term collaborator, Dr. Robert Anholt — two staff scientists, and two doctoral students. With strong support from Clemson University, the Center recruited four assistant professors from Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This enabled the Center to expand rapidly to six faculty and a cohort of 16 graduate students on the Greenwood campus and eight affiliated members on the main campus of Clemson University. 

    In 2021, the Clemson University Center for Human Genetics, in collaboration with the GGC, received a grant from the National Institutes of Health for over $13.5 million total cost to establish a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Human Genetics to promote the professional development of young investigators. 

    The Center’s Goals for Genetic Research

    The goals of the Clemson Center are two-fold:

    1. to leverage comprehensive systems genetic approaches and comparative genomics to elucidate fundamental principles of the genetic underpinnings of human complex traits, including disease risk.

    2. to promote precision medicine by developing advanced mathematical models to predict disease risk and assess therapeutic benefits based on genetic and environmental factors.

    To enable these activities, the Center has established the most advanced genomics facility in South Carolina with capabilities for short- and long-read DNA sequencing as well as analyses of gene expression networks in single cells. The Center also contains a microscopy facility, a bioinformatics facility, and its own high performance computing cluster for analyses of large datasets.   

    Faculty in the Center use comparative genomics approaches to gain insights in human disorders. Such approaches include studies on the fruitfly (Drosophila) model, which enables sophisticated genetic experimentation, zebrafish (in collaboration with the GGC), which is a powerful model for developmental genetics, and human cell lines. These systems have complementary advantages, so combined insights from studies on these systems can be applied to patients and human populations. 

    Studies in the Center focus on substance use disorders — including cocaine, methamphetamine, and alcohol — cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. Most genetic studies to date have focused on genes that code for proteins, structural components of our cells and enzymes that catalyze reactions that sustain intermediary metabolism and the formation of macromolecules, such as our DNA. 

    However, protein coding genes comprise only ~2% of the human genome and there is a growing realization that non-protein coding elements of the genome play an important role in gene regulation in health and disease. Thus, a major focus of the Center’s studies is dedicated to elucidating the contributions of noncoding elements of the genome to disease manifestation. Another major focus of faculty in the Center is to develop computational methods to predict disease susceptibility based on genetic and environmental information, a critical prerequisite for personalized medicine. The Center also interacts closely with the GGC to obtain insights in the pathology of rare pediatric diseases.

    The Clemson Center for Human Genetics seeks to develop local, regional, national, and international collaborations to advance human genetics and is currently part of a large international consortium funded by the European Commission to study the genetics of susceptibility to environmental toxins. As part of a major research university, the Center is also strongly committed to educating the next generation of human geneticists by providing educational opportunities for high school students, their teachers, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists, and to promote public understanding of human genetics through community outreach.

     September 08, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    PMLS launches one of the nation’s largest variant surveillance initiatives see more

    The Biden Administration announced Friday a $1.7 billion investment to monitor new and emerging COVID-19 variants which could induce another pandemic wave. Concurrently, to combat these mutated strains, advanced molecular diagnostics laboratory, Premier Medical Laboratory Services announces their launch of one of the nation’s largest variant surveillance initiatives. Now conducting genomic sequencing of 6,000 specimens per day, PMLS plans to increase that number to 12,000 by May. The large amounts of data gathered by this initiative will help protect the population from a future surge and cases with increased severity of symptoms.  

    When speaking on Pfizer’s ability to adjust the vaccine for effective inoculation against the new variants, a Pfizer Executive said Saturday, “You can basically, within a couple of weeks, put a new sequence in.” In order to make these adjustments to vaccines, scientists developing them need genomic sequencing data on a large scale, like that being produced by PMLS.

    Scientific Director of Clinical Genetics for PMLS, Vidhya Narayanan commented, “Sequening information and population studies can give us vital information regarding evolution of the COVID 19 virus and transmission pattern which otherwise can go unnoticed.”

    The COVID-19 virus is structured so that inside each nucleocapsid protein is the viral genome, which over time can mutate for the virus to be more efficient at spreading and to potentially cause more severe illness than the original strain. Genomic sequencing decodes the genomes to learn about the virus and how it is evolving. Standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests, which are most widely used for detection of the COVID-19 virus, are very specific to detecting the pathogens of the original COVID-19 strain. Next generation sequencing is able to detect new pathogens so that epidemiologists can study viral genome mutations to understand how they affect the viral characteristics of COVID-19 and to determine future health implications the novel variants may cause.

    Because library prep instruments and genomic sequencers are in short supply, many laboratories spend hours conducting library prep and sequencing manually. With high throughput genomic sequencers and library prep instruments that automate the library prep and sequencing process, PMLS achieves a much higher capacity for genomic sequencing. By monitoring an exponentially higher amount of specimens, PMLS is better equipped to provide meaningful analysis with larger amounts of data and faster turnaround times for the effective surveillance of SARS-CoV-2.

    “We want to be proactive with these new variants in case any adjustments need to be made within the healthcare industry for patient care or new safety protocols need to be put into place,” said Kevin Murdock, Founder of Premier Medical Laboratory Services. “Data is the most vital piece in beating this pandemic, so we made this a top priority to aquire the most advanced sequencing equipment and top scientists to help monitor them.”

    Of growing concern, among other variants, is the Indian variant (B.1.617), which has spread to the UK and made landfall in California approximately two weeks ago. This variant is potentially the catalyst for a recent surge of cases in India and is believed to have more rapid rates of transmission than the original strain like the UK variant (B.1.1.7) that is estimated 50 percent more than the standard form of SARS-CoV-2 which is also been shown to cause higher mortality rates. (1,2)

    Other current known variants:

    • Brazil (P.1)
    • South Africa (B.1.351)
    • California (B.1.427/B.1.429)
    • New York (B.1.526)

    The high-volume sequencing being conducted at PMLS follows suit with COVID-19 testing solutions they have provided as a laboratory with one of the highest testing capacities in the nation. Their ability to test over 300,000 specimens per day for COVID-19 paired with their rapid turnaround of accurate results is why they are the chosen laboratory to conduct testing for Human Health Services surge sites, large organizations, schools, athletic teams, and state health departments across the US.

    According to the CDC, genomic surveillance can help detect variants with:

    • Ability to spread more quickly in people
    • Ability to cause either milder or more severe disease in people
    • Ability to evade detection by specific diagnostic tests 
    • Decreased susceptibility to therapeutics that employ monoclonal antibodies
    • Ability to evade natural or vaccine-induced immunity (3)

    Sources:

    1. Harvard Magazine https://harvardmagazine.com/2021/01/covid-19-variants
    2. Nature Research Journal: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03426-1
    3. CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/variant-surveillance.html?CDC_l.html

    For more information, please visit www.premedinc.com/ngs or call 1.866.800.5470.

     

    ABOUT PREMIER MEDICAL LABORATORY SERVICES

    Premier Medical Laboratory Services (PMLS), based in Greenville, South Carolina, is an advanced molecular diagnostics lab fully certified by top laboratory accrediting organizations, including CLIA and COLA. With the most advanced laboratory information systems (LIS) easy to read one-page test result reports are generated with higher accuracy and a customizable report for each client. PMLS prides itself on having some of the most rapid turnaround times for testing results in the industry. Their expansive testing menu includes Pharmacogenomics, COVID-19 testing, Advanced Cardiovascular Testing, Diabetes, Women’s Wellness panels, Allergen Specific Ige Blood Testing, Toxicology, and a first of its kind predictive genetic test for type II diabetes, DiabetestPredict. For more information, please visit www.PreMedInc.com

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Vikor Scientific and Quantgene announce major advance in precision genomics see more

    Courtesy of GSA Business

    Starting this March, a South Carolina lab will become ground zero for a preventative test that can detect cancer-causing mutations, risks or tumors in advance through a quick blood sample taken at home or a physician’s office.

    S.C. life science organization SCBio and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance linked together Charleston’s Vikor Scientific and California’s Quantgene Inc. when the West Coast company was on the hunt for a lab that could commercialize its AI and genomic-powered preventative care program, Serenity.

    Serenity puts to task a deep genomic sequence process that covers 20,000 genes in combination with the disease, medication and lifestyle risks that could contribute to multiple variations of cancer. Along with the blood test, or “liquid biopsy,” it can detect cancerous mutations in the blood, according to Vikor Scientific co-founder Shea Harrelson.

    “What this means is that we can detect cancer early enough so that patients don’t have to resort to chemotherapy,” she said during SCBio’s Virtual Meeting Wednesday morning. “They may have options for immunotherapy or aggressive preventative strategies or even excisional therapy.”

    Patient-specific health profiles covering personal and family history, as well as lifestyle choices, will brief analysts on how additional risks may contribute to a patient’s likelihood of developing early-stage cancer, thus prompting preventative care.

    “With Serenity, we are first-to-market in combining liquid biopsy cancer detection with whole exome sequencing and advanced medical intelligence,” Johannes Bhakdi, founder and CEO of Quantgene, said in a news release. “We hope to unlock a new era in medicine in which trained physicians can detect multiple cancers at early stages in the blood with single molecule precision. Serenity brings genomic technologies to patients within an innovative system of preventative care that we believe will set a new standard in patient-centered personalized medicine. We are excited to take this important step with our partners at Vikor Scientific.”

    Vikor Scientific, a hub for medical testing, will process test results in collaboration with Serenity’s proprietary cloud for both individual end-users and health care professionals.

    The South Carolina company will launch its public awareness and physician education campaigns alongside the concierge-product release on March 1, according to Scotty Branch, co-founder of Vikor Scientific, and will soon build out its current location in Charleston.

    “Our number one goal is to educate physicians throughout the country, which is what we do best,” Branch told GSA Business Report, adding that the team is working to get insurance companies on board with the treatment program now.

    “Until then, the liquid biopsy, or the early detection portion, will be on a concierge or cash-paid basis,” he said.

    Vikor Scientific will conduct whole exome sequencing and send that information to the Serenity cloud for both physicians and individual consumers, potentially for a variety of uses.

    While existing genetic tests on the market like those sold by 23 and Me may be able to offer a surface level detection of certain cancer-causing genetic variations in a patient, Serenity takes genomic testing to the next step of preventative treatment, the company said.

    “Genetic mutations only play a role in about 5% to 10% of cancer,” Harrelson said. “So, there’s about 90-95% of cancers that don’t have genetic mutations, and without that, you still have a lot of familial cancers. And most people die from cancer than heart disease or automobile accidents, so this liquid biopsy test will be very important, because if patients have put stress on their body or smoke or other risk factors that can increase their chance for cancer, this liquid biopsy test is pretty painless and a great screening tool for this and other cancers that … like pancreatic cancer. We often don’t find out about pancreatic cancer until stage three or four.”

    Taking into account detected at-risk genetic variations, the Vikor-Quantgene team will analyze additional risks for early stages of cancer through the liquid biopsy test, in lieu of more invasive measures, which can detect whether nascent tumors are forming in the body.

    “It’s a great continuum of care,” he added. The test analysis could then be used, in tandem with additional data, to launch preventative treatment and care.

    “We need to use liquid biopsy as part of an annual or bi-annual screening,” Branch said.

    After a Monday Vikor Scientific Board meeting, Branch said 99% of the plans for the facility buildout have been nailed down. The full announcement will come when the company approves the final portion of its development strategy.

    “This is an amazing announcement for South Carolina and for economic development, where we are going to build out at our location at 22 West Edge, where Vikor’s location is currently,” he said. The company will start small with 10 to 20 new employees and scale up from there. “That is exciting news that a corporate hub would be located here in Charleston’s West Edge Medical Innovation District."