PMWC 2017 Silicon Valley: Data sharing, privacy, and security

pmwc2017sv-logoThis year’s Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC 2017 Silicon Valley) was comprised of many exciting sessions and presentations (almost 300 speakers across four tracks) in the area of next-generation sequencing, different diagnostics applications, precision medicine, big data analysis, the microbiome, large cohort studies, biobanking, and data interpretation/knowledge extraction. In addition to providing a great set of overview talks on latest developments and achievements across the health care sector, in pharma, and related to regulatory aspects, this latest rendition of PMWC also featured a government presence (the former FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf and the former Cancer Moonshot Task Force Director Greg Simon) and Elizabeth Baca (Health Advisor to Governor Brown’s Office of Planning and Research) among others that shared with the audience their respective Continue reading

Can 2017 top 2016?

In the life sciences, 2016 brought us many significant developments, and thank goodness, it’s mostly exciting and great to talk about those in length. I am talking here about technological advancements, the many new applications next-generation sequencing is seeing, genetics moving into the clinic, precision medicine finding its mark in oncology and beyond, immunotherapy establishing itself as the leading weapon to attack cancer, and more.

The significance of these developments is further manifested with clinical omics taking shape, hospitals adopting new applications, and testing and treatments that are based on next-generation sequencing, omics data, and more. The results speak a clear language: improved diagnostic tests, and more precise therapeutics.

Here a few highlights – not an all-inclusive summary – of what made 2016 so exciting.

2016

Next-generation sequencing matures

In 2016, we’ve reached a stage where the limitations of next-generation sequencing is not at the level of sequence data generation anymore, rather the limitations are associated Continue reading

This year’s Bio-IT 2016 With Clinical Genetics as the Frontrunner

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This year’s Bio-IT conference – with theme Big Data – was clearly marked by the presence of clinical genetics: its data sharing, analysis, and interpretation challenges echoed throughout the many talks (and exhibit) whether it was Heidi Rhem’s opening plenary session or George Church’s genomics breakfast session, demonstrating that routine sequencing is within reach. Undoubtedly, there have been great developments in the software space in the past years, but scaling for massive genomics data still requires work! Interestingly, overlapping with Bio-IT 2016, the 13th International Congress of Human Genetics held in Kyoto further exemplified what was communicated Continue reading

The JP Morgan Healthcare Conference from Afar

This being an invitation-only conference, I had to follow the JP Morgan Healthcare conference from a distance. As we have witnessed in the past, exciting announcements happen here in San Francisco around or just before this annual conference and some of the news spark what eventually will become the big trends throughout the year. One could say it is a window to what is just around the corner in 2016.

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Obviously, Illumina made quite the splash with two separate announcements: (1) launch of the new company Grail – major co-investors include Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and others – focusing on pre-symptomatic cancer testing based on the hot liquid biopsy-based Continue reading

The Life of a Genetic Counselor: Providing Patient Education, Navigating Insurance, and Challenges in Choosing Tests

dna-163466Recently I got a glimpse of life as a genetic counselor when I spoke with Kerry Kingham from the Stanford Cancer Center. So many of us in the genomics community come from the worlds of technology and science — I thought enlightenbio readers might find this clinical information as useful as I did.

Kerry started out in biology but earned her master’s degree in genetic counseling at Berkeley, a career path that requires board certification, state licensing, and ongoing education. Her job entails what you might expect from genetic counseling: providing education to patients to help make informed decisions on genetic testing, including dealing with insurance companies and other logistics, as well as teaching students.

AngelinaEffectTypically, Kerry’s workday starts at 8:30 am, when she meets with the rest of the team to discuss the day’s cases. She sees about 25 to 30 patients per month, a significant increase even from last year’s numbers. Stanford Hospitals & Clinics alone has seen a doubling in the number of patients between October 2013 and February 2014 (from approximately 60 to more than 100 patients in six months and this at the Cancer Center alone). Kerry attributes much of that to the Angelina Jolie effect: the actress’s decision to go public about her BRCA status and prophylactic double mastectomy, which has encouraged many more people to find out about their own genetic information. Most patients are referred to the clinic by their physician and some are self-referred and are seen by a genetic counselor alone or with a genetic counselor and a physician.

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