29 Apr Aurora launches technology-driven biobank
Philip Loftus, the Vice President and CIO of Aurora Health Care, will speak next week in Madison at WTN Media’s Digital Healthcare Conference 2009 on research-driven genetic sampling and the ORBIT project.
MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee-based health care organization has launched a technology-driven biobank at one of its hospitals that aims to link science, technology and patient care.
Aurora Health Care’s Open-Source Robotic Biorepository and Informatics Technology (or ORBIT) databank could help determine whether patients may benefit from a certain drug, and will enable scientists around the globe to share information for research and medical discovery. Aurora hopes to implement this biorepository program system wide within a year.
Matthew Tector, director of the ORBIT project, said Aurora earlier this year began collecting and storing blood samples from its patients who consent to participate in the project. The pilot, which began at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, has received about 70 percent participation by patients there.
“If they have a blood sample taken for clinical testing, there’s always blood left over. What we can do is collect those samples of those who consent and store it for future analysis and link it to the medical record of the patient,” Tector explained, noting that samples are only collected when patients give blood for other clinical tests.
In addition to the blood, other specimens such as saliva or tissue could be collected from the patient. After collection, a robot extracts DNA from the blood, bar codes the specimen and stores it in a freezer that holds up to 76,800 vials. Bar coding links the specimen with an individual’s electronic medical record without identifying information such as a name, ensuring patient privacy and complying with privacy laws, Tector said.
Medical history and other information tied to each specimen is updated as participants return to Aurora for care, keeping information current and adding research value to the databank. Data will be made broadly available to scientists, according to Aurora, which will advance pharmacogenomics, a science which analyzes genetic markers to better predict who may benefit from a drug or have an adverse reaction.
“The field of pharmacogenomics aims to find a way to determine the most effective drug for an individual with the fewest side effects, based on that person’s genetic makeup,” according to Aurora vice president of research and academic relations Randall Lambrecht. “This is the prelude to ‘personalized medicine,’ where a drug or drug combinations are developed specifically for an individual.”
Tector said if patients continue to participate in sample collection at the rate of just above 70 percent they are now, Aurora could assemble enough samples to make data attractive to scientists. Aurora serves 1.9 million patients at 13 hospitals and about 120 outpatient clinics. The ORBIT project is expected to be implemented in all of these facilities in the next year.
For patients, that means quicker answers to researcher’s questions on everything from heart disease to cancer, and improved individual care for participating patients whose data will be linked to their electronic health records at Aurora.
Philip Loftus, Aurora chief information officer, calls ORBIT a key to personalized medicine that could lead to early detection or confirmation of genetic risk factors and information that will help providers determine treatment effectiveness. Loftus will speak next week in Madison at WTN Media’s Digital Healthcare Conference 2009 on research-driven genetic sampling and the ORBIT project.
Tector, who has worked to launch the program for five years with his father, Aurora’s Dr. Alfred Tector, said he sees Aurora’s biobank succeeding in reaching some of the goals now being discussed in the field by making available a diverse sample of data from its participating patients.
According to a new report, “The Future of Biobanks,” published by London consultants at Business Insights, predicts that in the next decade new biobanks will speed development of personalized diagnostics and therapeutics with the first advances expected to result in improved treatment of cancer. “Increased co-operation between biobanks can advance this progression, although many scientific and political barriers must be overcome,” the report states.