Health care hero: Ben Forred, Research and Imagenetics

Sanford Health leader oversees genetics clinical research, rare disease registry

Health care hero: Ben Forred, Research and Imagenetics

His love for science drew Ben Forred to Sanford Health a decade ago.

Forred eventually stepped out of a research lab and into an administrative office, earning an MBA along the way. But he still plays a key role in moving science forward to help patients.

“At the root of it is problem-solving,” Forred said. “You identify that something isn’t working right, or maybe we don’t have all of the answers for how something works. And science is just a process by which you answer those questions, or you investigate those things.”

These days, Forred looks at rare diseases from a different perspective than when he once planned experiments to help study them. In one of his current roles at Sanford Health, he oversees an international rare disease registry, CoRDS, based at Sanford Research. The registry collects data about people with rare diseases to the benefit of patients and researchers.

Forred has helped build relationships with patient-advocacy and funding organizations. And this has led him to interact with patients, who were nameless while he worked in the lab on their diseases. “Building these sorts of relationships with people who live with these diseases has been really rewarding for me,” he said, “especially if there’s a way that we can help them connect the dots.”

Caring for patients

Ben Forred’s other role at Sanford Health is director of clinical research over genetics and genomics at Imagenetics. The research there explores ways to personalize health care with genetics and data.

COVID-19 has presented new opportunities for clinical trials, as Forred’s team looks for those and offers them to providers as possibilities. The trials might consider the best ways to intervene, how to keep people out of the ICU and off ventilators, whether existing medications could be repurposed, or entirely new therapies.

“There are people in our very own community who could benefit from those sorts of trials. Maybe they can help save their life. And to be a part of that is very rewarding,” Forred said.

As Forred looks to the future, he sees genetics and genomics playing a key part in patients’ care. For example, knowing in advance how particular patients would expect to respond to medications ranging from cancer treatments to antidepressants could avoid a lot of trial and error and help them faster.

Forred loves his role at Sanford Health, pushing the organization to be a driving force in clinical research.

“Everybody wants to feel like they’re getting up in the morning and they’re going to work every day for something other than a paycheck.  At least that’s true for me,” Forred said.

“I want to be able to say that … I have had an impact on something.  And working in clinical research has helped me find my own place in that.”

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Posted In COVID-19, Non-Clinical Support Services, Research, Sanford Stories