How tech is advancing genomics to help clinical diagnosis
GENOMICS helps predict if a person is at risk of developing cancer.
Although historically a research domain, technological advances have made genomics more accessible to healthcare practitioners.
Clinicians are increasingly using genomics to improve diagnosis and develop treatments.
In an interview with Tech Wire Asia, Intel’s Health and Life Sciences Sales Director in Asia Pacific, Mark Burby, shares how technology played a part in bringing genomics from labs to hospitals.
Genomics as a field has many applications. It has found uses for forensics in law enforcement, genetic engineering in agriculture, and in tracing ancestry.
In healthcare, genomics is currently being used to find hereditary links to diseases, and in cancer diagnosis and treatments. Burby observed that genomics is also increasingly making its way into other disciplines including cardiology and psychiatry.
He explains that previously, genomics analysis and research were time-intensive processes that required very specialized infrastructures and equipment. This made genomics an expensive endeavor, accessible only to research scientists who were awarded public or private grants.
“There have been developments recently around the technology that has made it feasible for hospitals to consider adopting genomic services into clinical practice,” Burby shared. “Now you can theoretically put genomics analysis into the hands of regular clinicians and not just research scientist.”
Generally, in the tech industry, faster processors and higher capacity memory devices have improved efficiency for all types of workloads.
In genomics specifically, chipmakers have developed specific libraries that manage genomic related calculations. This helps functions relating to genomic analysis to run more optimally on processors.
Beyond technology, healthcare providers need to understand the impact genomics would have on existing and new services they are developing. Burby suggests that scientific research needs to be part of a clinical department, not just exist in a research institute.
“You’d need clinical scientists that have qualifications in genetics that can support the other doctors in the usage of genomics technology, whether in diagnostics or therapy,” he said.
Burby proposed an example in breast cancer screenings. Currently, screenings can only detect if a person has cancer, but it cannot identify risks to prevent cancer.
If governments can incorporate genetic testing into national screening programmes, it can help identify the population at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Clinicians can then use the data to develop preventative measures to reduce the risk of cancers.
In the pipeline, Burby tells us that technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and field-programmable gate array (FPGA) circuits are also being used to support genomics research.
Clinicians can look forward to affordable genomics tests that produce faster, more accurate results.