Lab Matters Spring 2019 - Page 4

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE Evolution and Transition I am excited to see what future advancements there will be in informatics and data analytics and their applications in infectious disease, newborn screening and environmental science.” Joanne Bartkus, President, APHL 2 LAB MATTERS Spring 2019 When I started as director of Minnesota’s public health laboratory in 2007, I had little working knowledge of newborn screening. Fortunately, I had a team of knowledgeable (and patient) staff, and the exceptional resources provided by APHL to help me develop a working knowledge of the myriad disorders, tests and treatments, and to better appreciate both the successes and challenges of newborn screening. Having just attended the 2019 Newborn Screening and Genetic Testing Symposium April 7-10, I realize how far things have come in the past 11 years, and how much I have yet to learn. The feature article in this issue of Lab Matters describes the changing nature of newborn screening and the challenge of bringing on testing for increasingly complex disorders. Because some of the disorders may not cause symptoms until the child is older, or maybe not at all, it will be increasingly important for newborn screening programs to collect and analyze data to improve their ability to predict which children may go on to develop disease and which may not. In addition, the increasing use of molecular methods, including DNA sequencing, as second or third tier tests will require that programs develop or enhance their bioinformatics capability. At the symposium, CDC presented their efforts surrounding data analytics for newborn screening, including creation of data analytic tools, providing training for newborn screening staff, and funding for bioinformatics fellows to work in newborn screening programs. The priority that I chose to emphasize for my year as APHL president was “data science” (aka data analytics). In choosing that priority, I was hoping to underscore the need for informatics and analytic capabilities beyond that which we have developed for whole genome sequencing. Therefore, I am particularly gratified to see CDC’s emphasis on developing data analytics and bioinformatics in newborn screening. And now that environmental laboratories are also acquiring high- resolution mass spectrometers that generate large data files, we can utilize the sequencing infrastructure that we have developed to deal with those massive files. As we continue to develop our bioinformatics capabilities while implementing whole genome sequencing for an increasing number of microbial pathogens, I am excited to see what future advancements there will be in informatics and data analytics and their applications in infectious disease, newborn screening and environmental science. I write this message as my year as APHL president is coming to an end. I feel like I am just starting to get the hang of it. Still, I look forward to handing the reins over to our very capable president-elect, Grace Kubin, at APHL 2019 and to supporting her next year as the past-president. See you in St. Louis! n PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org