St. Lukes, Helix Partnership to Enroll 100K in Population Genomics Research Program

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The St. Lukes University Health Network and the population health company Helix announced they will collaborate on a population genomics research program seeking to enroll 100,000 patients in St. Lukes Pennsylvania and New Jersey over the next four years . The program will provide genetic testing services to patients as a means of increasing the precision medicine capabilities of healthcare systems.

“We have arrived at a historic turning point in the history of medicine, the ability to use the information stored in patients’ DNA to improve the accuracy of certain treatments for the individual patient,” said Aldo Carmona, senior vice president for the Luke’s Clinical Integration. “The St. Luke’s-Helix partnership will create a unique research program in our region that will dramatically expand those capabilities to benefit more patients. We expect the findings will provide St. Luke’s with important insights into our community so we can deliver more precise and effective care and design solutions that can prevent disease for years to come.”

St. Lukes is a fully integrated healthcare network comprising 14 campuses, over 300 outpatient sites with over 19,000 employees serving 11 counties in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and Western New Jersey. St. Lukes is a teaching hospital and operates the only medical school in the Lehigh Valley through a partnership with Temple University.

For the research program, Helix will provide St. Lukes with its end-to-end genomics testing and data platform under what it has dubbed its Sequence Once, Query Thick model that allows patients to provide a one-time sample for testing, and allows healthcare professionals to tap into the data for relevant information in the future with the need for further testing. The intent is that patient-specific data can be used for a broad range of treatments and preventive care over many years.

The 100,000 patients who participate in the program will also receive important results from their tests regarding their potential risk for developing significant hereditary conditions including heart diseases, such as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), cancers driven by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and a form of colorectal cancer called Lynch syndrome. Participation in the program is voluntary, and those who receive genetic test results will be able to seek further follow-up care with the health care system or provider of their choice.

“This research program will provide valuable insights into precision medicine and inform initiatives that could enable the early diagnosis of health conditions along with the selection of precise treatment options,” Carmona said.

James Lu, MD, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Helix added Our partnership with St. Luke’s gives providers and patients access to vital genetic information that can impact not only their lives but entire families as well , for generations to come.

Helix, founded in 2015, has pursued partnerships similar to the one with St. Lukes aimed at providing population-level whole-exome testing aimed at identifying diseases, such as those mentioned above. While the number of diseases may seem small, in total they are estimated to affect nearly two million people in the United States today, providing health care systems with a significant opportunity to reduce the total cost of care through early treatment and prevention. The company currently has similar partnerships with HealthPartners, Memorial Hermann, the Medical University of South Carolina and WellSpan Health.

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