Thermo Fisher, University of Pittsburgh Create Center of Excellence

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Thermo Fisher Scientific and the University of Pittsburgh have established a new pharmacogenomics center of excellence to support translational research that demonstrates the value of PGx in precision medicine.

Thermo Fisher Scientific and the University of Pittsburgh announced on April 5, 2018 that they have established a new pharmacogenomics (PGx) center of excellence that combines technology in genomics, bioinformatics, implementation science, medication response phenotyping, and education.

The center will feature Thermo Fisher's portfolio of PGx testing solutions, including its PharmacoScan platform, to study preemptive panel-based PGx testing and return results in at least 150,000 patients in western and central Pennsylvania. The study team expects that this high-density population screening of 4627 markers within 1191 genes will yield concise PGx signatures that associate with novel and known phenotypes within specific patient cohorts. Thermo Fisher aims to demonstrate that targeted testing can be deployed clinically at population scale using proven testing platforms that have been designed for greater speed and precision.

The company intends for the new center to discover and validate medication response predictors in patients, overcome clinical implementation barriers, and demonstrate the value of pre-emptive PGx testing in routine clinical practice.

Importance and impact

Pharmacogenomics is an important part of precision medicine, as stated by FDA. It can reveal how a person's genetic makeup may affect their response to a drug, and this can assist healthcare providers in "choosing a drug that is more likely to work, avoiding drugs that might have side effects, adjusting the dose of a drug, or determining if closer monitoring is needed."

Thermo Fisher states that pharmacogenomics is increasingly used during drug discovery and development as well. 

"Pharmacogenomics envisions the widespread use of genetic testing to predict how patients may respond to particular medications, but barriers to clinical implementation still exist," said Alan Sachs, chief scientific officer at Thermo Fisher Scientific, in a company press release. "Together with the University of Pittsburgh, we realized that no single entity had stepped forward to establish the clinical utility of this approach at population scale, and this was the impetus for launching the new [c]enter of [e]xcellence."


Dr. Philip Empey, associate director for pharmacogenomics in the Institute for Precision Medicine and faculty in the School of Pharmacy and the Clinical and Translational Institute, will lead the center. He will oversee expert teams of faculty and staff focused on pharmacogenomics, implementation science, bioinformatics, analytics, economics, and education. An advisory board comprised of representatives from the university, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Thermo Fisher, and external experts will guide program vision and timelines.

"This is the first academic-industry collaboration focused on PGx at this scale, and we expect it will accelerate the translation of PGx into routine clinical practice," said Empey in the release. "With Thermo Fisher, we will be able to deploy the most advanced technologies strategically, including contemporary genotyping arrays and next-generation sequencing to demonstrate the clinical utility and economic value of pre-emptive PGx testing."

Specifically, the center will focus on:

  • Technologies to identify the genomic determinants of medication response and provide PGx analysis and interpretation for researchers, clinicians, and patients

  • Demonstrating the clinical utility and economic value of PGx-based care in emerging healthcare delivery models at UPMC

  • Developing effective methods for return of PGx results to achieve clinician and patient education

  • Advancing PGx and technology awareness and adoption, providing leadership in technology translation through educational platforms, conferences, and hands-on workshops hosted by the university and Thermo Fisher to distribute expertise and best practices nationally.

Thermo Fisher also reports that the new center will be supported the university’s Pitt+Me Discovery, the new institutional bio-repository developed by the University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). It also extends the PGx clinical implementation of PreCISE-Rx and Test2Learn, educational programs already implemented in Pittsburgh.

"Pitt+Me Discovery will be a powerful resource for the [p]harmacogenomics [c]enter of [e]xcellence, eventually providing samples from up to 150,000 individuals that can be used to demonstrate the value of implementing a preemptive PGx approach in a large health care system," said Steven Reis, MD, director of CTSI, in the release. "In addition to advancing PGx discovery, the center will create novel methodologies to return actionable results back to patients and providers that will serve as a model for other types of clinically applied genetic testing."

Source: Thermo Fisher Scientific