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Intermountain Healthcare Launches Study to Unlock Genomic Data

April 18, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Researchers from the Salt Lake City, Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare have announced a long-term prospective study that they think has the potential to help physicians and others unlock genomic data.

The PRECISE approved study allows for serial collection of fresh-tissue and blood specimens for research purposes, officials said in a press release last week. According to Bryce Moulton, clinical research director for precision genomics at Intermountain Healthcare, “PRECISE is a prospective, general tissue-collection protocol.” Unlike a retrospective study, often designed around a specific disease type and objective, Moulton explained, “PRECISE allows us to create a diverse biobank of varied sample types that will serve as a hypothesis-generating resource for future precision health initiatives, and “transcends all medical disciplines. PRECISE is the instrument that allows researchers to investigate more efficiently, apply new technology and increase analytic capabilities that only fresh-frozen tissue can provide.”

As the health system’s researchers explained, historically, tissue samples are stored in Formalin-fixed, Paraffin-embedded (FFPE) blocks. FFPE tissue samples are invaluable resources for profiling gene expression and studying a variety of diseases and will be further utilized in PRECISE. As Moulton noted, “For genomic analysis, where we are looking at DNA, we find that FFPE sometimes proves difficult. A superior method is fresh-frozen, stored in a minus 80-degree freezer. With fresh-frozen samples, we are able to preserve and better analyze DNA, RNA and other cellular components that researches may not otherwise have access.”

Tissue analysis from PRECISE will take place at the Translational Science Center in St. George, Utah, yet the recruitment, enrollment, and sample collection is across all of Intermountain Healthcare, according to officials.

Tyler Barker, Ph.D., the principle investigator for the PRECISE study at Intermountain Healthcare, added, “Through the robust patient populations and resources at Intermountain, PRECISE will provide new opportunities to address a diverse range of research questions and expedite the research process in a consistent and efficient manner.”

Barker continued, “The multi-disciplinary nature and prospective design of PRECISE will be a challenge and require a tremendous amount of teamwork, but in the end, the pragmatic results will advance our knowledge regarding precision health and medicine initiatives.” To accomplish the objectives of the PRECISE, this system-wide study will collect samples from healthy individuals and patients with disease treated at Intermountain Healthcare. Genomic data from PRECISE will be linked to clinical outcomes for correlative studies.

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