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Quest Diagnostics to form research partnership with UC San Francisco

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Madison-based commercial laboratory Quest Diagnostics has formed a partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, designed to create better diagnostic tools based on biomedical research.

Initial areas will focus on autism, oncology, neurology and women's wealth, according to a news release from both organizations. They say the idea is to combine the academic expertise of UCSF with Quest's national testing database and clinical resources.

Scientists from both organizations will conduct joint research and develop products focused on improving precision medicine, a more personalized field that aims to benefit specific patients through clinical, molecular and population research.

The alliance represents the first master agreement that UCSF's Office of Innovation, Technology and Alliances has signed with a clinical laboratory testing company, part of the university's efforts to translate laboratory research into new therapies. The organizations say the agreement lays the groundwork for multiple projects.

Dr. Jay Wohlgemuth, senior vice president focusing on science and innovation at Quest Diagnostics, called it a unique partnership that "brings together the finest researchers and clinicians in the country to accelerate the development of a product pipeline of scientific discoveries … that enable precision medicine for improved outcomes."

The collaboration is launching with two projects underway.

One involves using Quest's database of molecular testing data to pinpoint genetic mutations associated with autism and other disorders. There is no treatment for autism, but the organizations say a test that improves diagnosis could help identify individuals who might be candidates for research studies that could lead to therapies.

The second project aims to identify biomarkers to determine which children with glioma brain tumors could benefit from an available drug to treat the disease. That project combines molecular biomarker testing with magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, technology.

"There are many diagnostics projects underway at UCSF for which Quest could partner and contribute a great deal of value in turning an isolated research project into a diagnostic service or other technology that directly benefits patients," said Dr. June Lee, director of early translational research at the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which initiated the collaboration with Quest after several scientists from both organizations had formed isolated but successful collaborations.

"This agreement will give UCSF researchers access to Quest expertise in developing diagnostics, as well as in understanding the market conditions for projects on campus," Lee said.

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