Arkansas Genomics Shifts to Molecular Medicine to Find New Customer Base

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

One example of where this comes into play is with cancer patients.

“Like say a doctor uses drug ‘X’ for cancer,” Threet said. “The cancer isn’t going away; the patient’s hair is falling out. So now they use drug ‘Y’ or drug ‘Z,’ and the insurance company has spent $2 million in cancer drugs, the patient’s almost dead, his last six weeks of life are miserable and nothing’s worked. Finally, through the process of elimination, the doctor prescribes a certain drug that finally starts working.”

Because of how precisely personalized medicine works, Threet said, that type of trial-and-error prescription process can be reduced or eliminated.

Ahmad Brown, one of the doctors who advised Threet to enter molecular diagnostics, said the technology is growing in importance.

“Molecular diagnosis is sort of the wave of the medical future,” Brown said. “The idea is that we can figure out molecular fingerprints and tailor-make therapy for patients for their disease process or their immune system.”

Brown himself uses the process for patients with serious skin diseases like lymphoma. When he needs molecular diagnosis, he has to use a lab in California, but he said he hopes to use Threet’s lab once it’s ready.

“I’d like to keep things local,” he said.

Staggs, Threet’s medical director, received specialty training in molecular diagnosis during his residency.

“Everything will be molecular diagnosis in the next — maybe even 10 years, certainly by 20 years,” Staggs said. “We already sub-classify nearly every tumor type by molecular diagnosis.”

The new path isn’t without difficulties, however. For a test to be marketed, it needs to be “online.” That means the test is validated and has been proven to get accurate results.

“In doing so, we spend a lot of money on samples necessary to do it with no revenue associated,” Threet said. “There are a lot of costs in just preparing to offer the tests.”

This results in a Catch-22 for Threet. The tests need to be online to attract customers, but Threet can’t afford to bring them online until he has a customer.



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