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Molecular Tri-Conference Preview (San Francisco CA March 7-11 2016)

Posted by Dale Yuzuki on Feb 29, 2016

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The 23rd annual Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference will be in San Francisco, California March 7 through 11, 2016, and will cover topics ranging from personalized diagnostics, circulating tumor cells, and clinical NGS diagnostics through integrated bioinformatics, frontiers in gene editing, cancer immunotherapy and molecular diagnostics for infectious disease.

Molecular Diagnostics

One keynote, entitled ‘Why an accurate diagnosis is fundamental to health care’, Dr. Elaine Lyon (ARUP Laboratories’ Medical Director and 2014 President of the Association for Molecular Pathology) leads a session and a panel discussion afterwards covering genomic medicine’s promise with inherited and de novo disease, the value of ‘DNA intelligence in the war on cancer’, and how an accurate diagnosis impacts the economics of healthcare.

Another session that will attract a lot of attention is ‘Developing evidence to establish clinical validity of emerging clinical diagnostics’. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be represented by Dr. Alberto Gutierrez, Director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, in a talk entitled ‘Evidence Required by FDA for Establishing Clinical Validity’. Dr. Elaine Jeter of Palmetto GBA will provide an overview of what clinical validity means to Medicare coverage, and Dr. Kathryn Phillips will discuss payer coverage policies.

Personalized Diagnostics

A session of interest is entitled “Can Exomes Replace Targeted Panels? Balancing Costs with Results and Regulatory Requirements”, chaired by Dr. Karl Voelkerding  (Professor, Pathology at Univ Utah and Medical Director, Genomics and Bioinformatics of ARUP Laboratories). Dr. Brigit Funke (Partners Healthcare and Harvard Medical School) presents an intriguing talk entitled “Diagnostic Gene Panels in the Exome Era – Using Exome Sequencing as a Universal Assay to Streamline Assay Development and Laboratory Operations”.

In a session called “Why Targeted Therapies Fail”, Dr. Victor Velculescu (Johns Hopkins University and founder, Personal Genome Diagnostics) will present “Characterization of Driver Alterations in Tissue and Liquid Biopsies”, along with several other talks during this conference discussing the important topic of circulating tumor DNA-based diagnostics. Dr. Joshua Stuart (University of California, Santa Cruz) will present “What is a Cancer Mutation? Challenges in Detecting, Interpreting, and Targeting Somatic Variants”, describing both the existing problems in raw data interpretation into biologically-interpretable information. Our own Dr. Russell Garlick (Chief Scientific Officer, SeraCare Life Sciences) has a presentation called “NGS-Based Diagnostics: Developing Assays and Monitoring Performance Using Novel Biosynthetic QC Tools”. In addition, he will be presenting a poster titled “Preliminary Results from an Interlab Study Testing Biosynthetics as Next-Generation Sequencing Reference Materials”.

Cancer Molecular Markers

Dr. Robert Daber (Vice President Genomics Operations, BioReference Laboratories) chairs a session called “FFPE Considerations for Novel Cancer Biomarker Assays”; Dr. Helen Fernandes (Director Molecular Pathology, Weill Cornell Medical College) will discuss “Assessment of FFPE Samples for Success in NGS”; and Andrew Hollinger (Application Scientist, Broad Institute of MIT) will present “NGS Applications with FFPE Samples: No Longer a Pipedream”. (If you are interested in additional information about working with FFPE samples, we have an informative interview with Dr. Greg Tsongalis about his work, called “What are the sources of variability when working with FFPE material?”)
Other sessions will include a session called ‘Digital Pathology and Immune Checkpoint Therapy’, on assessment of PD-L1 across several cancer types. Mouse models, technologies and techniques around circulating tumor cells (CTCs), circulating RNA and exosomal vesicles, round out a variety of topics in this emerging field.

PCR for Molecular Medicine


Subtitled ‘From Assay to FDA: Preparing PCR for Personalized Medicine’; several new techniques on increasing the sensitivity of PCR-based assays will be presented to interrogate exosomal contents (both DNA and RNA), circulating tumor DNA and biopsy samples. Other creative techniques, such as direct gene detection (without nucleic acid extraction), allele-specific PCR with NGS, and combining PCR and NGS techniques for exosomal biomarkers will be presented from a variety of academic and commercial entities.

Infectious Disease

Interest in using NGS for diagnosing infectious disease has been growing, and this session will cover both 16S sequencing and metagenomics approaches. Dr. Miguel Quinones-Mateu (Scientific Director, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio) will present “Clinical Testing Using an NGS-Based HIV-1 Genotyping Assay (DEEPGEN™ HIV): The Importance of Utilizing a Stringent Quality Control”. 

Disruptive Innovation in Laboratory Medicine

This conference will also present a few novel technologies, some of which may become routine diagnostics of the future. Dr. Ron Davis (Director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center, Stanford University California) will present a new technology from the field of electrical engineering called nanoplasmonic electrical field-enhanced resonance, which has the promise of label-free detection of a wide variety of biomolecules from a variety of sample types over a wide dynamic range. Centrifugal microfluidic sample preparation, nanopore sequencing for real-time pathogen detection, and mobile phone sensing technologies will also be presented.

Cancer Models and Informatics

One track is devoted to Predictive Preclinical Models in Oncology. In vivo screening using Patient-Derived Xenograft (PDX) mouse models have become an important tool in drug development. By implanting humanized mice with patient tumors, a new avenue has opened up in the search for new therapeutic targets, discovery of resistance mechanisms, and studying biomarker signatures of response. A particular area of application of this work is with immune checkpoint inhibition, and a popular topic is how these developments affect clinical trial design. Another track is called BioInformatics for Big Data, covering data organization, data visualization, and integration of genomics data into electronic medical records.

Symposia on Gene Editing, Circulating Cell-free DNA, Point-of-Care Diagnostics and More

A two-day symposium on a variety of topics closes out the Molecular Tri-Conference. Of particular interest is one on circulating cell-free DNA, where Dr. Bharathi Anekella (Vice President Research and Development, SeraCare Life Sciences) will present a poster entitled “Biomimetic Reference Materials for Liquid Biopsies”.

If you are attending you can see an overview of all of SeraCare's activities at the Molecular Tri-Conference and schedule an appointment with a scientist from SeraCare. We also have evaluation programs in Oncology, Infectious Disease and Reproductive Health.

If you would like to follow the activities online, the Twitter conference hashtag is #TRICON.