Each year I look forward to the task of reflecting on the year gone by and coming up with a top 10 list that represents highlights of the year for DNA Genotek, our customers and the health community. It was 2009 when I sat down to write the first version of this list and each year, it is one of our most popular blog articles. It is often difficult to choose the items that make this list – mostly because there are so many exciting developments to talk about. The items that made the list this year are some of the most interesting I’ve written about as I believe many of them will change the way we look at genomics in the future. I won’t be surprised if some of them also appear on top 10 lists in the coming years as several of them have some serious staying power. I hope you enjoy DNA Genotek’s top 10 list for 2012.
- Personalized medicine gains strength. While personalized medicine made tremendous strides for cancer in 2012, the promise of better patient outcomes for many other diseases is not far behind. Researchers and clinicians continue to make progress in developing targeted therapies for a variety of health issues based on genomic research, many using our Oragene/saliva collection kits for their work.
- DNA Genotek launched GenoFIND genomic services. In our years of providing sample collection and preparation kits, we learned that many customers want a service centric solution that spans collection, extraction, testing, analysis and reporting. In November of 2012, DNA Genotek announced we will fill this need by offering high quality services to our existing customer base. Our customers are already taking advantage of this new offering and we’re excited about its growth in 2013.
- Supporting genetic study of craniofacial abnormalities in Ethiopia. In 2012, a team of researchers brought a project to our attention that was designed to investigate the genetic and environmental causes of craniofacial anomalies (cleft lip and palate) with the ultimate aim of prevention. It was a research project that was not having success receiving research grants. In Ethiopia, infectious diseases such as HIV, TB, and malaria are the primary health concerns which often results in less focus on congenital problems. However, the impact of a congenital birth defect can be very severe when coupled with poor socioeconomic conditions. Through the DNA Genotek Helping Hands Program, we provided Oragene/saliva collection kits and BioServe Biotechnologies (a member of our partner program) will be providing the DNA extraction services to make this project come to fruition.
- Falling costs for whole genome sequencing are making it widely accessible. Whole-genome sequencing has begun moving into the clinic, sleuthing out problems and offering hope for a diagnosis and treatment that is more effective and more personal. In 2012, we saw genomic information provide insights that were timely and actionable enough to improve the treatment of individuals. An increasing number of patients and practitioners are embracing genomic analysis – many to tackle rare diseases, but others simply to advance the science or just for fun. In 2013, as costs of genome sequencing fall further, we’ll increasingly be able to find needles by analyzing entire haystacks.
- DNA from Oragene/saliva samples continues to gain acceptance as a suitable sample input for next generation sequencing technologies. The latest development in this body of evidence is this year’s announcement by Complete Genomics that they will accept DNA from Oragene/saliva samples for whole genome sequencing. We are very pleased that they have opened up their service to include DNA from Oragene/saliva samples. We take a lot of pride in the number of publications that include the use of Oragene samples as the source of DNA in the studies and this is equally true with NGS publications. This past year, we saw more and more posters and publications with Oragene samples for NGS. Our customers can be assured that Oragene saliva samples meet the high quality input requirements for next generation sequencing applications.
- The awarding of the DNA Genotek Grant Program prizes. Although the DNA Genotek Grant Program was launched in 2011 (and it made our top 10 list for last year), we didn’t anticipate the overwhelming response to the program. By the time the deadline to apply rolled around in January of this year, we had exceeded our target number of applications four times over. The quantity and particularly the quality of the applications were outstanding and it was a difficult task to select the winner. In the end, we awarded two prizes and both recipients have already made great progress with their projects (with one presenting preliminary findings at ASHG 2012). We are awaiting their final results and expect to share the full details of their outcomes with you in 2013.
- Celebrating 5 years and 25,000 samples at Spit for the Cure. October of 2012 marked the 5th anniversary of our participation in the Spit for the Cure event. We’re proud to be associated with this great initiative and even more proud of its success. Spit for the Cure is a collaborative effort between DNA Genotek, the Arkansas Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and University of Arkansas breast cancer researchers Dr. Susan Kadlubar and Dr. Suzanne Klimberg. At Spit for the Cure, our Oragene product is used to collect DNA samples on site at the annual Susan G. Komen Arkansas Race for the Cure® in Little Rock, AR. So after 5 years, how is the project progressing? The samples collected this year bring the total to over 25,000 for this important breast cancer research project. We are proud that Oragene has been used to collect so many samples that will enable breast cancer research and hopefully lead to a cure.
- Facilitating oral microbiome studies. A fascinating area of research that has been gaining a lot of momentum surrounds the influence of our microbiome with overall health and disease. Studies have shown an association between the human oral microbiota and risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. Our OMNIgene•Discover product provides a non-invasive collection device that allows participants to simply donate a saliva sample that remains stable at ambient temperatures through long term storage and transport. Working with RNA can be very difficult as it is prone to degradation; OMNIgene•Discover provides stability and reliability for both DNA and RNA sample collection. While the product is relatively new, it has already made tremendous strides in advancing this evolving area of research. I look forward to more advances in 2013.
- Customer satisfaction is what really matters: The feedback we get from our customers humbles me on a daily basis. As a company we are committed to building quality products and to providing superior customer service. In our customer satisfaction surveys, we ask one question that matters most to us: “How likely is it that you would recommend us to a colleague?” Over and over, you do recommend us to your peers and collaborators. My sincere thanks to so many of you that share this feedback with us. It’s one of the reasons I love the DNA Genotek community so much.
- Surpassing 500 scientific publications referencing Oragene. When we launched our first product for collecting DNA from saliva, we knew we had introduced a game changing method for DNA collection. We also knew that we would have to convince the scientific industry that it could replace blood-based collection methods with a non-invasive option that provided the same results. We quickly started seeing this proof appear in a variety of scientific publications. I’m proud to say that in 2012, we surpassed 500 scientific publications referencing our Oragene collection kits! I know that a significant number of these research projects would not have been possible without our kits particularly those with remote collections in difficult environments. I also know that many of these projects have been successful because they used our kits to collect samples from people who otherwise might not have been willing to participate. The number of scientific publications referencing Oragene tells me that we are achieving our mission of contributing to worldwide health improvements.
We’ve learned a lot in the past year. We’ve learned that real medical problems are very complex and few can be reduced to a single gene. We’re also learning that the data generated from the ever growing research in genomics provides a blessing and a curse. As continued improvements in high throughput techniques provide more useful information on what seems like a daily basis, researchers in bioinformatics must find ways to guide this flood of data and filter out the treasures. Looking ahead to 2013, we’ll continue to provide the best in sample collection, preparation and analysis products and services for our customers so they can study the genome and solve real problems. The rewards looming are large.
What was your most memorable moment in genetics in 2012? Did I include it in my list? Leave a comment and let me know.