Microsoft, partners to employ IT in 'ground-breaking' genetics research
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Microsoft, partners to employ IT in ‘ground-breaking’ genetics research

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Microsoft, Scripps Health, Affymetrix and Navigenics will launch what the companies say is ground-breaking research to evaluate the impact of personal genetic testing on the health and psyche of a patient. The study will offer genetic scans to up to 10,000 employees, family and friends of Scripps Health system and will measure changes in participants’ behaviors over a 20-year period. Researchers will use healthcare IT to study genetic variations linked to many diseases. “The study will afford researchers the opportunity to better understand ways to prevent, diagnose and treat disease,”according to Microsoft officials. “This project represents the largest single opportunity to date for modern genetics to move outside the laboratory and directly to consumers,” said Kevin King, president of Affymetrix. The study follows heated presidential election debates over how to reduce the costs of healthcare through better use of preventive care. It also comes as physicians and stakeholders continue to wrangle over the value and timing of using genetic information to treat patients. At a recent conference, Jeffrey M. Drazen, MD, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and professor at Harvard Medical School, said people are better off sticking to a diet and exercise regimen than getting their genome read. Drazen had privacy concerns and questioned the benefits of genomic readings before policy and end-use results prove it is useful or safe. “What we have now has promise, but we’re a long way from utility,” he said. “As a physician, I want to see the results.” Vance Vanier, MD, chief medical officer of Navigenics, said the new study represents “a “fundamental paradigm shift from reactive to predictive and preventive medicine.” Participants in the new study will have their information stored in Microsoft’s HealthVault, a platform Microsoft launched a year ago for retaining patient-controlled personal health records. Since the launch of HealthVault, Microsoft has partnered with organizations including the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente. “Personalized medicine stands to change the way people approach their health and wellness, as well as open up new genetic research opportunities,” said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group.

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