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New ARUP Institute Aims to Work With Industry, Academia to Develop Dx Tools


NEW YORK – A new institute formed by ARUP Laboratories intends to collaborate with industry and academic partners to create innovative diagnostic and prognostic tools. 

The ARUP Institute for Research and Innovation in Diagnostic and Precision Medicine launched earlier this summer with the goal of continuing the development of cutting-edge diagnostic medicine, said Robert Ohgami, a professor at the University of Utah and VP of the new institute. The R&I institute was formed to help ARUP "continue to innovate as an organization, not alone but in partnership with our colleagues, our community, together." 

Working with those partners, he added, is "the way to leverage our ability to develop excellent diagnostic tests to really provide that best patient care."

Tracy George, ARUP's CSO and president of the Innovation Business Unit, which includes the institute, added that there's "only so much impact you can make as a solo organization," and the institute is intended to provide opportunities for collaboration with both companies and academic institutions to develop new tests and new technologies, with a particular emphasis on projects that will enhance the quality of a patient's care.

While ARUP officials declined to discuss specific projects underway, Ohgami noted that there are several areas of focus for the institute. Artificial intelligence and machine learning applications are of particular emphasis, namely practical applications of the technology. Sequencing is also a focal point, as the institute is interested in determining how to best link data obtained through sequencing to additional patient information, such as data garnered from mass spectrometry or other testing. 

George said the institute is also looking at specific disease areas, including neuroinflammatory diseases like Alzheimer's, that have seen expanded interest in recent years and have been a target for precision medicine development. ARUP has also previously developed esoteric tests for rare and orphan diseases, and the institute will use that expertise to create additional clinical tests, Ohgami added. 

He also noted that developing novel clinical tests for rare diseases can have "broader impacts beyond just that niche" and specifically cited ARUP's work with droplet digital PCR testing for mastocytosis that has been applied to patients with acute myeloid leukemia. ARUP currently offers a laboratory-developed test to help diagnose mastocytosis and provide prognostic information for tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy planning. 

While the institute is actively pursuing collaborations that fit into its areas of interest, it has received multiple inquiries from academic groups and companies interested in partnering, and it has already inked multiple contracts and is evaluating dozens of projects, according to Ohgami.

George noted that the institute has a vetting process to determine which projects will be most impactful to patients and where ARUP can contribute the most in moving tests and technologies forward.

Some of the projects it has started have been moving through the pipeline very quickly, Ohgami said, and may be completed in the next few months, although he declined to be more specific.

The proposals vary widely, with some organizations requesting help to develop new technologies and validate new types of instrumentation in different areas of proteomics and genomics, he said. In certain proposals, ARUP has been asked to look at specific aspects of data and assess its quality, and in others ARUP has been involved in much broader discussions, such as evaluating whether a type of RNA assay could be applied clinically and how it could be validated. It has also been asked to help make improvements to different tests and technologies, George added. 

ARUP previously worked with Utah-based startup Techcyte to develop a tool to digitize slides from stool samples and identify organisms, such as parasites. Although it was developed before the institute went live, George cited the Stool Tool as an example of one type of project the institute may be involved with. 

Funding for many of these projects will come from partners because while ARUP has subject matter expertise, it doesn't "have the deep pockets" that many diagnostic companies do, George said. Many of the groups that have approached the institute want to support ARUP's work through funding because "they understand that it's the way to actually accelerate development," Ohgami said.

As for commercialization and patent rights, he noted that all technologies developed at the institute, either independently or through collaborations and partnerships, "are subject to definitive agreements that clearly detail intellectual property rights," as well as the distribution of revenues and royalties among the collaborators. 

What ARUP will provide in each deal varies based on the partnership, but Ohgami noted that it will largely offer its intellectual expertise, such as scientific staff to support wet lab research or computer science experts to help develop AI-based algorithms. 

In addition to that expertise, ARUP can offer regulatory, quality, and compliance guidance and address multiple areas of the diagnostics research and development space, George said. "We really have a bird's-eye view over this whole laboratory business, and we have many years of experience … we can address every part of this whole diagnostics market." 

While many companies have subject matter experts working for them, she noted, it's "very different, honestly, to have lab expertise, and that's what we bring to the table."