“October 28, 2002 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

IBM continues to muscle its way into healthcare informatics using the concept of “grid computing.” It’s already working with the University of Pennsylvania to create a computer network and data repository that will store mammograms and allow a patient’s past mammograms to be retrieved for study at any of several participating clinics. This month IBM announced a similar project with Oxford University and the United Kingdom. The goal is to create a network across six sites that will expedite studies of how location, diet, age, and other factors influence breast cancer and its treatment. These types of networks will be eventually used to access and study lab test data.

Corrections & Clarifications

In the October 6, 2002 issue of THE DARK REPORT, on page 17 under the subhead “Dwindling Path Influence,” the first sentence starts out “the proposed merger between Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp.” The sentence should properly say “the merger between Quest Diagnostics and Unilab.”


With the basic human genome now mapped, attention is turning to the human proteome. In response to concerns that commercial restrictions on biological information are hampering research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this month that it would create the “United Protein Database,” or Uni-Prot. Modeled on existing DNA repositories, it will combine protein data currently held in three separate repositories.

ADD TO: Protein Database

The proteome repository was announced after a Swiss corporation announced it would charge researchers to access its protein data. The NIH effort is projected to take three years and will catalog two million proteins. Because proteomics are expected to yield a treasure trove of diagnostic and therapeutic uses, laboratories should closely follow this rapidly-advancing area of medicine.


Here’s a fascinating story for labs that perform drugs-of-abuse testing. The Associated Press reports that a federal prisoner in Massachusetts is challenging the accuracy of PharmChem’s sweat patch, used by federal courts across the country to test for drugs of abuse. Henry Alfonso was on probation for charges related to his purchase of OxyContin from an undercover agent. He was recently returned to prison after his sweat patch tested positive for traces of cocaine. He claims that this latest positive test, along with the other five positive drug results he has had since April, were caused either by cocaine residue left in his apartment by the previous tenant (a known drug dealer) or by the cash his wife brings home from her job as a stripper. He filed a challenge to the sweat patch’s accuracy in federal court. Pharmchem says it requires considerable quantities of a drug to penetrate the patch’s membrane. Instead of challenging the accuracy of the test in court, Alfonso might be best advised to move to a new apartment next time he’s out of jail!


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