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By Mark D. Uehling

May 7, 2002 | Laboratory Corporation of America will try to position itself as one of the first companies to deliver the secrets of the human genome into ordinary medical practice.

Its specialty is not new medicines, but laboratory tests, which generally make the journey from the R&D process to market more quickly than drugs. "The fruits of the genomics revolution are going to be born in diagnostics before they are born in therapeutics," says the company's Hawazin Faruki, VP of operations at LabCorp's Center for Molecular Biology and Pathology. "We are a part of that."

By way of proof, LabCorp announced an advanced suite of tests to help doctors improve the management of patients diagnosed with hepatitis B and C. The tests rely on genomics technology to find exact snippets of DNA or RNA that correspond to specific strains of the hepatitis virus. Some of the technology was originally developed by National Genetics Institute of Los Angeles, now a subsidiary of Lab Corp. The suite of tests strengthens the company's position in the molecular hepatitis testing market, and demonstrates its commitment to providing clients with advanced DNA/RNA testing.

The new Hepatitis C QuantaSure test, for example, is one of the most sensitive viral load tests available, capable of detecting hepatitis C down to as little few as 5 copies of the virus per milliliter (mL). With the assay's capability to detect such low levels of virus, physicians can be more confident about assessing viral clearance in their patients, improving treatment management.

That's important because some patients with hepatitis, on the margins of society, are skittish around doctors. Such patients may not always come back for another appointment to have their medical therapy fine-tuned.

Another test from the new suite, the HBV SuperQuant, provides physicians with more information than the combination of the two qualitative and quantitative DNA tests currently on the market. The new test not only confirms the presence of the virus but also assesses disease prognosis and is useful for monitoring patients on therapy.

Finally, LabCorp will soon be introducing another new product, its GenoSure resistance test. That test will be capable of detecting all of the currently known mutations that contribute to HBV drug resistance, allowing physicians to more accurately manage their patient's therapy options.


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