Screening study brings Sanford Health, Harvard together

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A partnership with Sanford Health, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital will help determine best practices for using a genetic screening study to improve population health.

The Imagenetics program at Sanford Health offers expanded genetic screening and counseling through primary care clinics. The process uses a simple blood draw and the Sanford Chip, a $49 test that examines DNA. Physicians use this information to more accurately prescribe medications. It also helps identify genetic risk factors and tailor a care plan to address them.

“It’s exciting for a research organization and a clinical organization to partner in this way,” said Cassie Hajek, M.D., a clinical geneticist and physician chair with Sanford Imagenetics. “The experience that the Harvard research team brings will help us better understand the data we’re gathering and what it means for not only our patient population but others as well.”

The four-year screening study collaboration began this year.

Experts in genomic medicine from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital will help guide Sanford Health researchers. Patients can consent to participate in the screening study when they sign up for the Sanford Chip. Patients who already have had the test will be contacted separately for consent.

About the collaboration

The collaboration examines research questions, including how providers deliver results, how results affect prescribing patterns and patient compliance. Also being considered are the health and economic effects of the results, and how results affect family members.

“This is a unique opportunity to examine the impact genetic screening has when it’s been offered as a clinical service rather than an experimental tool,” said Kurt Christensen, Ph.D., who is leading the Harvard team. Christensen’s team draws on the skills and experience of analysts and faculty from the Genomes2People Research Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Genomes2People is led by medical geneticist Robert Green, M.D., M.P.H.

The Imagenetics program, which began in 2014 thanks to a gift of $125 million from philanthropist Denny Sanford, allowed Sanford Health to embed genetic medicine directly into primary care.

The Sanford Chip is available to eligible patients through their Sanford Health primary care providers. This test will be ordered and the results managed by Sanford primary care providers with support from genetic counselors. Genetic counselors help patients understand the medical, psychological and familial effects of genomics in a disease process.

The Sanford Medical Genetics Laboratory has customized the analysis of specific regions of a patient’s genetic code to create unique testing with the Sanford Chip. As a laboratory-developed test, it does not require approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but all clinical testing is covered by federal laboratory regulations.

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