Arkansas Genomics Shifts to Molecular Medicine to Find New Customer Base

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Apr. 8, 2013 12:00 am  

To make a profit, Threet needed high-volume contracts that required multiple tests. Threet knew a client like that didn’t exist in Arkansas, because the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory did most of its DNA testing in-house. But when Threet started marketing nationally, he discovered that those high-volume contracts were nearly unattainable for almost anyone but the huge testing labs like LabCorp of Burlington, N.C., which also has an office in Little Rock.

“The contracts were worded to rule out the small man like me,” Threet said.

High-volume contracts had difficult stipulations, Threet said. Some contracts required a DNA lab to have been in business five years, for example. Mostly, though, the big crime labs were reluctant to shift to a new vendor.

During its first year of actual business, Arkansas Genomics’ revenue was around only $60,000, Threet said. Most of that came from private contracts or from the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that helps wrongly convicted felons seek DNA testing to clear their names.

The New Approach

Things weren’t looking good for the fledgling lab.

But a new hope appeared at the end of 2012 when several local physicians and pathologists pointed out a different niche that Threet could exploit. They told him about molecular diagnostics and personalized medicine: DNA testing to help analyze diseases and determine what types of drugs are safe to use.

Threet looked into the industry. Other hospitals in the state do molecular diagnostics, but Threet would be the only dedicated lab in the state. He decided to take Arkansas Genomics down that path. Unfortunately, this meant more accreditation.

“I started climbing another hill,” Threet said.

Threet brought in Brent Staggs, a pathologist and partner at Pathology Labs of Arkansas, to be medical director at the lab. When the new approach is fully realized, Threet said, the lab will probably hire four or five more staff members. The lab can perform about the same number of tests per month as it did when it was forensic-focused. The new direction is total enough that Arkansas Genomics will be changing its name to Diamond Clear Diagnostics.

Threet said molecular diagnostics is extremely important for doctors prescribing pain medication.

“The liability on the doctor’s back is extremely high,” Threet said. “He wants to alleviate the pain on patients, to give them better health care, but at the same time you’ve got the toxicity levels of all the medicines the patient has taken, and with certain drug-to-drug interactions the patient could overdose and literally die. It’s important for this test to be conducted for a physician to know how to better dose his patients.”



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