Ben Solomon is a board-certified pediatric geneticist who focuses on the use of genetics and genomics to identify, understand and care for patients with both rare and common genetic conditions as well as broad applications of genomic medicine. In addition to his laboratory, clinical, and research leadership and advocacy, Dr. Solomon has authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and textbooks, and is an active lecturer and educator. Read his full bio.

Interview with Ben Solomon of GeneDx

Q: What need is GeneDx addressing?

A: GeneDx was started in 2000 by two NIH scientists with the mission of making genetic testing accessible for patients with rare diseases. We continue to focus on this mission almost 20 years later, but also continue to grow and evolve with changes in technologies, medical knowledge, clinical practices, and research approaches. We now offer genetic testing for just about every indication related to clinical germline/constitutional indications, from single variant testing to whole genome sequencing, and everything in between.

Q: What are the products and/or services GeneDx offers/develops to address this need? What makes GeneDx unique?

A: As mentioned, we have a very comprehensive genetic testing menu both in terms of assays and technologies but also across clinical (as well as research) indications. We pride ourselves on our deep clinical and molecular expertise in everything we do. We have over 150 MDs or PhDs and over 120 genetic counselors, and our team is incredibly passionate about providing the most accurate and best possible testing for all the clinicians, researchers, patients, and families we have the honor to serve. We really care about what genetic changes mean for patients and the providers they see, and make sure we go the extra mile in explaining the evidence and data behind the result, as we know the field of genetics is complex and ever-changing. Along these lines, we believe in marrying the latest cutting-edge methodological approaches – including artificial intelligence and advanced bioinformatic algorithms – with careful human oversight, as well feel that an optimal approach requires these checks and balances and a lot of TLC!

Q: What is your role at GeneDx and what excites you about your work?

A: I’m the head of GeneDx, so I work with every and all aspect of our company. I really love being able to find answers and results that are especially tricky and difficult, and which may be overlooked by other methods. We are constantly iteratively improving our methods, adding new tests and options, and otherwise refining what we do, and it’s great to be part of a field where constant change is a requirement. We think hard about known disease loci as well as novel or candidate disease genes. It’s great to be part of a field where we can identify “knowns” as well as contribute new knowledge to the field.

I’m also a physician clinical geneticist (I still see patients as a small percent of my time), and my heart really goes back to interactions with patients and families. I see very directly how much that matters, including when no testing is done or a test doesn’t provide answers. In other words, no matter how technologically-advanced we get, there’s tremendous power in the human touch. I like to think of GeneDx as helping support these interactions on a large-scale basis and in some of the most clinically challenging and frankly difficult situations in medicine.

Q: When thinking about GeneDx and the domain GeneDx is working in, what are some of the recent breakthroughs that are propelling the field forward and how will they impact healthcare?

A: There are constant breakthroughs in this field, including on the “wet lab” and “dry lab” side. I’m particularly excited about new bioinformatic and related methods that help us detect and understand genetic changes that were previously not able to be interrogated or interpreted. We constantly have situations where we’re able to find answers for patients who were previously tested over months and years through a more piece-meal approach using smaller or less advanced assays.

Q: What are the short-term challenges that GeneDx and its peers are facing?

A: It’s very important for all of us in the industry to make sure that insurance companies and related groups understand the clinical impact, guidelines, and financial effects of genetic testing, and we need to keep having those conversations. It’s also critical to make sure there aren’t logistic barriers erected against clinically-indicated testing. I worry that clinicians are so buried in paperwork that they are taken away from their primary goal and passion, which is taking the best possible care of patients. In addition to making life miserable for clinicians, barriers to clinically-indicated and evidence-based testing can have serious effects on the health of patients.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the PMWC audience?

A: It’s a wonderful time to be in this ever-changing field.

Interview with Andrew Carroll of Google AI

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

A: I believe that applying AI technologies in healthcare will make physicians more valuable, and will make their careers more enjoyable and sustainable.

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Interview with L. Staton Noel III of Panaceutics

Q: What need is Panaceutics addressing?

A: One of the key barriers to making precision/personalized wellness and healthcare products is the contradictory goal of manufacturing individualized products on a large scale. Meeting demand for personalized products can be expensive and logistically challenging.

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Interview with Joe Zhang of Burning Rock Dx

Q: Genomic medicine is entering more hospitals and bringing with it non-invasive technology that can be used to better target and treat diseases. What are some key milestones that contributed to this trend?

A: The milestones in my mind include the first FDA clearance of Next Gen Sequencing instrument, MiSeqDx in 2013, this opened a new door for clinical utilization of parallel gene alteration detection in clinical setting.

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Why are Scientists So Upset About The First CRISPR Babies?

The use of new technologies can provide breakthrough benefits for both patients and providers. However, with increased sharing comes increased risks to the security and privacy of patient data. Currently data is being accumulated across many organizations and initiatives but is often either siloed or simply not accessible. Researchers suggest that patient education tactics can help quell security concerns during patient data sharing.

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Interview with Kara Davis of Stanford

Q: The Nobel Price in Medicine was awarded recently to James Allison and Tasuku for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options. The Nobel committee hailed their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” What is your first-hand experience the impact that those new drugs had on patients?

A: These immune checkpoint inhibitors have been an incredible demonstration of the ability of the immune system to control and in some cases.

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Interview with Shannon J. McCall of Duke University

Q: Genomic medicine is entering more hospitals and bringing with it non-invasive technology that can be used to better target and treat diseases. What are some key milestones that contributed to this trend?

A: After several years of the promise of precision medicine and abundant clinical trial work, the recent FDA approval of solid-tumor-agnostic therapies dependent on molecular biomarkers has catapulted genomic/precision medicine into the standard-of-care for late stage cancer.

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Interview with Tao Chen of Paragon Genomics, Inc.

Q: Once sequencing has been validated as a clinical solution via trusted workflows, and coinciding with the technological developments driving costs lower, we can expect accelerated human genome profiling for clinical Dx. How soon, do you think, will we see accelerated growth and what can we expect?

A: For whole genome sequencing to be a reliable clinical tool, it will largely depend on the cost of sequencing the genome and our ability to interpret the data.

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Call for Action: The Time is Now for Patient Data Interoperability

The use of new technologies can provide breakthrough benefits for both patients and providers. However, with increased sharing comes increased risks to the security and privacy of patient data. Currently data is being accumulated across many organizations and initiatives but is often either siloed or simply not accessible. Researchers suggest that patient education tactics can help quell security concerns during patient data sharing.

Read More

Interview with Andrew Magis of Arivale

Q: Once sequencing has been validated as a clinical solution via trusted workflows, and coinciding with the technological developments driving costs lower, we can expect accelerated human genome profiling. How soon, do you think, will we see what kind of accelerated growth?

A: I think the acceleration has already begun. Large sequencing projects such as NHLBI Trans-omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) and NIH All of Us are sequencing 150,000 and 1 million individuals, respectively.

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Interview with Emily Leproust of Twist Bioscience

Q: NGS is enhancing patient care through improved diagnostic sensitivity and more precise therapeutic targeting. Prominent examples include cystic fibrosis and cancer. What other clinical areas NGS will most likely to change the standard-of-care in the near future?

A: Preventative medicine – using genetic data to identify traits that have the potential to cause harm in the future.

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Interview with Michael Phelps of UCLA

Q: You invented the PET scanner that changed the lives of millions of patients with cancer, brain and heart diseases. What are the potential benefits to patients of combining PET with radio-ablation technologies?

A: PET provides imaging assays of the biology of disease in many diseases today.

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Interview with Daniela Ushizima of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

A: I really hope that human physicians will not be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future.

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Interview with Amy Compton-Phillips of Providence St. Joseph Health

Q: Genomic medicine is entering more hospitals and bringing with it non-invasive technology that can be used to better target and treat diseases. What are some key milestones that contributed to this trend? What technological advancements are driving this change?

A: Genomic medicine is poised to move quickly from the research realm into integration with healthcare delivery, but there is always a time lapse between technology advances and what we do with those advances.

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Interview with James Taylor of Precision NanoSystems

Q: There are various new, emerging technologies that bring us closer towards a cure for life-threatening disorders such as cancer, HIV, or Huntington’s disease. Prominent examples include the popular gene editing tool CRISPR or new and improved cell and gene therapies. By when can we expect these new technologies being part of routine clinical care?

A: Patients are already receiving treatment using novel gene and cell therapies.

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Interview with Julie Eggington of Center for Genomic Interpretation

Q: Together with Robert Burton you founded the Center for Genomic Interpretation (CGI), a non-profit organization. Can you tell us more about CGI and the mission behind it?

A: CGI’s mission is to drive quality in clinical genetics and genomics. CGI works primarily with laboratories, health insurance payers, clinicians, and patients/consumers.

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Johns Hopkins
University Of Michigan

The Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC), in its 16th installment, will take place in the Santa Clara Convention Center (Silicon Valley) on January 20-23, 2019. The program will traverse innovative technologies, thriving initiatives, and clinical case studies that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in health care. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest developments and advancements in precision medicine and cutting-edge new strategies and solutions that are changing how patients are treated.

Agenda highlights:

  • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
    • AI & Data Science Showcase
    • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
    • Clinical Dx Showcase
    • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
    • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
    • Digital Phenotyping
    • Diversity in Precision Medicine
    • Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Early Days of Life Sequencing
    • Emerging Technologies in PM
    • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
    • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
    • Gene Editing
    • Genomic Profiling Showcase
    • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
    • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
    • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Microbial Profiling Showcase
    • Microbiome
    • Neoantigens
    • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
    • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
    • Pharmacogenomics
    • Point-of Care Dx Platform
    • Precision Public Health
    • Rare Disease Diagnosis
    • Resilience
    • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
    • Wellness and Aging Showcase

Agenda highlights:

    • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
      • AI & Data Science Showcase
      • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
      • Clinical Dx Showcase
      • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
      • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
      • Digital Phenotyping
      • Diversity in Precision Medicine
      • Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Early Days of Life Sequencing
      • Emerging Technologies in PM
      • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
      • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
      • Gene Editing / CRISPR
      • Genomic Profiling Showcase
      • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
      • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
      • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Microbial Profiling Showcase
      • Microbiome
      • Neoantigens
      • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
      • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
      • Pharmacogenomics
      • Point-of Care Dx Platform
      • Precision Public Health
      • Rare Disease Diagnosis
      • Resilience
      • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
      • Wellness and Aging Showcase
  • Luminary and Pioneer Awards, honoring individuals who contributed, and continue to contribute, to the field of Precision Medicine
  • 2000+ multidisciplinary attendees, from across the entire spectrum of healthcare, representing different types of companies, technologies, and medical centers with leadership roles in precision medicine
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