Clinical Genomics – Hype, Hope and Better Tools for Researchers

imageThis week I came across two important announcements that I wanted to share with readers of HealthBlog.  The first was communicated to me in an e-mail I received from my colleague Michael Millenson (right).  Over the years Michael and I have shared the podium on occasion at hospital and health system leadership events and board retreats.  Michael is the president of Health Quality Advisors LLC.  He also serves as the Mervin Shalowitz, MD Visiting Scholar at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and is a senior policy consultant to the Urban Institute.  He has just published an article addressing many of the issues and controversies that surround the clinical application of genomics research and genetic testing.  Here’s what Michael told me about his latest work:

The Urban Institute has just published an issue brief I wrote entitled, "How Can We Move Clinical Genomics Beyond the Hype?" Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it takes an extended look at what's hype, what's hopeful, what's helpful and what's harmful in the actual practice of clinical genomics. At a time when six of 10 physicians say they've ordered a genetic test and regulation of those tests is moving to the front burner in Congress, this paper looks at the landscape of clinical genomics from a health policy point of view in terms of its growing impact on the cost and quality of care.

No matter if you are a clinician, researcher, patient or just a curious consumer, I think you’ll find Michael’s issue brief to be quite thought provoking.  If you would like to see a short summary of the issue brief and have the ability to download the paper for yourself, please follow this link to the Urban Institute Health Policy Center.

imageThe second piece of information I wanted to share is on a somewhat related topic.  Back in July of 2010 I told you about something called the Microsoft Biology Initiative - resources designed to help biological scientists and programmers conduct research more efficiently and affordably. Those resources included the first post-beta release of the Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF), a language-neutral bioinformatics tool kit built as an extension to the Microsoft .NET FrameworkIn November of the same year, we provided some additional information about the MBF when Beatriz Diaz Acosta, a senior research program manager for the MBF, joined me on the set of Microsoft Health Tech Today to provide an update on how scientists and researchers were using MBF resources and tools.

This week, Microsoft Research announced the next evolution of the Microsoft Biology Initiative with a transfer of ownership and a brand new name for the Biology Foundation. 

The Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF) has undergone a significant transformation since it was first released. Over time, it’s become clear that a new name was also in order. So today, we are announcing that MBF will now be known as .NET Bio. In addition to the new name, .NET Bio will also have a new location: the Outercurve Foundation. This move is the next logical step in the life of the project: transferring its ownership to a nonprofit foundation that is dedicated to open-source software underscores our community-led philosophy; while Microsoft will continue to contribute to the code, it will do so as one among a growing community of users and contributors.

imageYou can read the full announcement and check out links to the resources and tools associated with .Net Bio on the Microsoft Research Connections Blog

Next Thursday I’ll be in Waltham, Mass, to provide a keynote at an annual event for the Massachusetts Hospital Association.  The event is MHA’s 10th Annual Workforce Summit.  This year’s gathering will focus on “Opportunities and New Frameworks for Hospital/Physician Alignment in an Era of ACOs and Changing Payment Systems”. Maybe a shorter title might have been “How to Do Much More with Much Less”.  Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Bill Crounse, MD                 Senior Director, Worldwide Health                 Microsoft


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