Genetic profiling facility attains IANZ and Sequenom accreditation

22 October 2013

After rigorous assessment, UniServices’ Sequenom facility based in the Liggins Institute has been awarded IANZ accreditation against the medical testing standard. It is a boon for researchers, academics, healthcare providers and patients.

Facility procedures, equipment, lab space, reagents and documentation all met with approval by the IANZ medical testing programme director.

The accreditation comes on the eve of certification as Sequenom Provider for three areas of research:  genotyping (looking at subtle changes in DNA sequence), methylation analysis (looking at changes that modify DNA function without changing its sequence) and validated panels (off-the-shelf kits to detect many cancer driver mutations).

Facility Manager Phillip Shepherd explains that both the IANZ accreditation and the certification will make UniServices’ the only company in the Southern Hemisphere with such comprehensive certification and brings a number of benefits.

“The new status takes our credibility as an international research facility one step further and enables us to perform certain diagnostic work not available anywhere else in New Zealand.”

While still a research facility for the most part the accreditation and certification will allow the UniServices’ facility to offer public and private health providers with time-saving, trusted diagnostic results – bolstering bottom lines, the public purse as well as providing more timely and personalised medical diagnoses for patients.

Phillip has begun discussions around developing specific specialised testing on site which will help lower the cost of specific tests which are either currently very expensive in New Zealand or which currently require offshore transportation and diagnosis.

In addition to providing a more cost-effective and efficient research and diagnostic processes, a specialised function of the Sequenom facility can aid clinicians’ treatment decisions by characterising the genetics of patient samples.  This is particularly useful in cancer diagnosis but also other conditions caused by genetic anomalies, such as cystic fibrosis.  “It is part of a wider global movement towards personalised medicine,” says Phillip.

Flow-on benefits from public and private access to the Sequenom facility include clinicians and researchers in the health sector expanding their own capabilities in other directions adding to greater high-tech research and diagnostic testing capability across New Zealand.

A special feature is the Sequenom’s sensitivity in the detection of genetic mutations.  Phillip is collaborating with Associate Professor Mark McKeage to make use of this sensitivity by developing techniques to detect a tumour’s mutation directly from a patient blood sample, rather than a tumour biopsy.

“We have early proof-of-principle with the detection of tumour mutations in patient plasma, which is exciting because if we can avoid the need for tumour biopsies it reduces the burden on the patient and the health system while allowing us to monitor a tumour’s genetic profile more actively”, says Associate Professor McKeage, a researcher at the University of Auckland and a Consultant Medical Oncologist at Auckland Hospital.

This has been done overseas but would be a first for New Zealand and the project is seeing some early success.

Phillip sees this kind of activity as the lab’s sweet spot.  “We are hoping our accreditation will lead to more diagnostic and research-based collaborations such as our recently-won Health Research Council-funded project on the role of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation testing for lung cancer.”

For more information about biomedical research opportunities contact

Andrew Palairet, Business Development Manager, Biomedical Sciences, UniServices Tel + 64 9 923 8245 Mob + 64 21 859 663

For more information on Sequenom Facility capability and booking  contact:

Phillip Shepherd, Sequenom Operation Manager, UniServices Tel +64 9 923 2809 Mob + 64 21 509 422

Auckland UniServices Ltd

Auckland UniServices Ltd is the largest research and development company of its kind in Australasia and is a wholly-owned company of the University of Auckland.  UniServices manages the intellectual property of the University of Auckland and is responsible for all research-based consultancy partnerships, contract education and commercialisation.

Contact:

Megan Fowlie, Communications Manager, Auckland UniServices Ltd +64 923 1690 +64 (0) 27 524 7901