NTX Magazine Volume 9 - Page 60

HEALTHCARE INNOVATIONS HEALTHCARE INNOVATIONS is the most powerful line from Illumina, the world- leader in genome sequencing technology. As one of only a few centers in the central United States featuring NovaSeq6000s, UTA and UNTHSC will be able to meet the rising demand for whole genome and exome sequencing in the region, serving as a hub for advancing collaborative cutting-edge medical research in the region. “We’re excited about the future of genomics in North Texas, and we believe this collaboration holds great promise for the future,” said Mark Van Oene, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for Illumina. UTA will partner with hospitals and medical systems throughout the region to support the needs of their clinicians for whole genome, whole exome and other patient genomic data. “The new North Texas Genome Center aligns with UTA’s strategic focus on both health and the human condition and data-driven discovery, and will lead to future programs and partnerships in genomics, computational sciences and genetic counseling,” said UTA President Vistasp Karbhari. “The Center will also catalyze the University’s emergence as a leader in precision health and the transformation of the region into a high-tech science hub.” DFW International Airport and Dallas Love Field are DART.org/airports 58 WWW.NTC-DFW.ORG Dr. Todd Castoe and Dr. Jon Weidanz, both with UT Arlington, stand next to the NovaSeq6000 The Center will also help support and enhance UNTHSC’s research expertise in genetics, aging and Alzheimer’s disease – along with its clinical emphasis on primary care, geriatrics and patient safety. UTA expects the North Texas Genome Center to boost the local economy through patented inventions, company startups and job creation. “UTA is becoming a hub for innovation in North Texas, and the North Texas Genome Center will boost our capacities in this area,” said Duane Dimos, UTA vice president for research. Space to Innovate for a Future of Care In a former cracker and candy factory in Dallas’ historic West End area of downtown is a very next-generation idea: By bringing together several different aspects of healthcare and keeping customers at the center of the mission, insurance provider Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas is developing solutions to make healthcare more affordable and improve outcomes for patients. Named the C1 Innovation Lab – “C1” for “Customer First” – customer service and healthcare management teams work and collaborate on-site to improve care coordination, health outcomes and the member experience for corporate accounts. In this space, a multi-disciplinary team of 80 strategists, design thinkers and creators evaluate concepts, pilot products and processes to bring healthcare solutions to the market for issues such as regulatory risk, the increasing burden of sponsoring healthcare, minimum wage pressure and other macro-economic issues that mean the most to national employers. While there are a handful of other innovation centers in the U.S. in the Blue Cross system, the North Texas lab is the first to create a co-working space where clinicians, members, advocates and innovators can unite and work one-on-one to generate solutions. Jon Weidanz, UTA’s associate vice president for research and interim director of the new center underlined the importance of the partnership with UNTHSC on this project. “People will come here for that kind of ethos in the environment,” said Paul Hain, M.D., market president of the North Texas Region of Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “It’s a fun time to be part of the advancement of healthcare.” “UTA’s partnership with UNTHSC on this project is a real differentiator,” Weidanz said. “The new ideas generated will be translated to the market through patents, licensing and startups, generating more wealth in the region.” With flexibility and mobility in mind, the 31,000-square- foot space is available for clients, vendors and academic centers to enter into collaborative partnerships. Co-located business operations in the lab include customer service and care management teams that SUMMER 2018 work together to improve care coordination, health outcomes and member experiences. Strategists, design thinkers and creators review concepts, pilot products and processes to bring healthcare solutions to the market. Paul Hain, M.D., market president of the North Texas Region of Blue Cross and Blue Shield “The thought behind creating this center was to have a place where a large business could come and have a design sprint session so that they could invent or design new ways of dealing with problems in the healthcare system,” Dr. Hain said. “It’s more than just an ideation space. It’s both an innovation space and a maker space because we have people who can answer questions about claims, do medical management and more. It’s a first for healthcare in North Texas." Clues to Cancer One in 21. Those are the current odds for men developing colorectal cancer in their lifetime. The odds are slightly improved for women, with the current risk rate at one in 23. Colon cancer is expected to take over 50,000 lives in the U.S. this year alone. For people suffering from ulcerative colitis, though, the risk of developing colon cancer becomes even higher. For anyone with the potential to develop colon cancer, fighting this deadly disease requires more than new treatment options – and right here in North Texas is a team looking for the clues to cancer. Researchers at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute in Dallas are exploring the connection between ulcerative colitis and colon cancer, to find a way to go beyond treatment and toward a game-changing test for early detection. And they just may have found those clues to cancer in our body’s own microRNA. “Using a model we’ve used in other studies, such as one for pancreatic cancer, we first looked at microRNA (mRNA) biomarkers — the keepers of our genetic information — and compared mRNA biomarkers of people with colorectal cancer against the biomarkers of healthy people,” explained Ajay Goel, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Research and director of the Center for Translational Genomics and Oncology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Of the 387 samples examined, Dr. Goel’s team found certain biomarkers were higher in patients with colorectal cancer than in those without. This discovery has very powerful implications, especially for people with ulcerative colitis. Based on this premise, it’s possible that we can take one biopsy, when someone is in their twenties or thirties, and then immediately know their risk for colorectal cancer now or down the road. Having inflammatory bowel disease, especially ulcerative colitis, can increase a person’s risk of colon cancer by almost 150 percent, according to a study in Digestive Endoscopy. “Because people are typically diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in their twenties and thirties, that’s where we started. We approached the study with two clinical questions: Could we find a better approach to diagnosing patients with ulcerative colitis? Which of these patients face a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer later in life?” Dr. Goel asked. With this approach, the team is looking at not only more effectively identifying at-risk patients and creating more refined treatment options, but also helping improve the quality of life for thousands of other ulcerative colitis patients. Instead of ongoing monitoring and a lifetime of biopsies just in case they someday develop colorectal cancer, treatment options can be customized according to the patient’s individual risk level. “We’re motivated by these results, but in the future, we plan to take it one step forward: Can we find the same kind of cancer biomarkers in a person’s blood, rather than through samples from a biopsy? Could predicting colorectal cancer risk be as easy as a blood test for patients with ulcerative colitis?” Dr. Goel said. While still in its early phases, this test alone is a significant step forward in helping patients receive a better diagnostic approach for ulcerative colitis and developing colorectal cancer, in one single biopsy. DISCOVER WHAT’S Even with all this cutting-edge innovation happening around North Texas, our healthcare providers never lose sight of the most important factor: the patient. DART.org/dartable SUMMER 2018 edit WWW.NTC-DFW.ORG 59