“June 28, 2004 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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There’s early evidence that health benefit costs for 2005 may only increase by a single digit percentage. Hewitt Associates is gathering data from 160 large companies for its annual healthcare cost survey. It reports that an average increase of 13.7% appears likely, compared to a 17.5% increase in 2004. But when employers factor in the effect of health plan changes, which can include higher employee deductibles or co- pays, employers can reduce the overall net increase by as much as 4%.

Just ten days ago, Leo Serrano resigned his position as Executive Director of Laboratory Services at West Tennessee Healthcare. This is an six-hospital health system in Jackson, Tennessee. As one of the nation’s first three major health system laboratories to apply Lean and Six Sigma techniques during 2003, Serrano has some unique experience that is fast coming into high demand.

MORE AND MORE GENETIC CANCER TESTS REPORTED AT ASCO

In late May, the American Society of Clinical Oncology(ASCO) held its annual meeting in New Orleans. Based on the topics presented at this year’s event compared to 2003, THE DARK REPORT can make an important conclusion for the laboratory industry. First, there was a notable increase in the number or cancer therapies based on genetic and proteomic technologies. Second, there was a significant increase in the number of presentations dealing with genetic tests that predict: a) whether a patient is likely to contract cancer; or, b) whether the patient’s cancer will be particularly aggressive; and/ or, c) whether the patient’s cancer will respond to a specific therapy.

ADD TO: Cancer Tests

Collectively, this increase in the number of presentations on genetic-based therapies and predictive tests for cancer is significant. It demonstrates that a number of promising technologies are about to emerge from the research laboratory and begin rigorous clinical study. Upon completion of those studies, some technologists will then find their way into clinical therapies and laboratory tests.

• It may be an early sign that the retirement wave of baby boomers is ready to hit. Paul J. Mountain, Senior Vice President of Science and Technology at MDS Diagnostics Services, has announced his retirement, effective at the end of this month. Mountain, a past president of the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA) intends to continue with his involvement in CLMA and NCCLS.

• A former President and COO of IMPATH, Inc. served a short tour of duty for a start-up laboratory company which failed to become operational. Earlier this year, Richard Adelson joined the executive ranks of Cantata Laboratories Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cantata was attempting to develop a metabolic profiling technology. But the technology did not perform and venture capitalists recently decided to pull the plug on the fledgling laboratory company.

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