“October 3, 2005 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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It’s a small news item, but sometimes such tidbits presage a bigger story. On Monday, September 26, 2005, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it had received a subpoena from the New York Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The subpoena requested “various documents, including documents relating to Quest Diagnostics’ relationship with health maintenance organizations, independent physician associations, group purchasing organizations and preferred provider organizations from 1995 to the present.

MORE ON: Quest Subpoena

Alert readers will recall that Quest Diagnostics and Laboratory Corporation of America received subpoenas earlier this summer from the U.S. Attorney in Newark, New Jersey. These subpoenas involved “business and financial records regarding capitation and risk-sharing arrangements with government and private payers for the years 1993 through 1999.” (See TDR, June 20, 2005.) Is it more than coincidence that federal offices on each side of the Hudson River are looking at certain laboratory contracting practices dating back to 1995?

CROC BLOOD MAY YIELD POWERFUL NEW ANTIBIOTICS

Observing that crocodiles rarely suffer infections— notwithstanding frequent violent injuries in microbe-laden environments—a scientist at McNeese State University in Louisiana has collected samples of crocodile blood from Australia’s tropical Northern Territory and is studying the creature’s immune system. Studies in recent years showed that several antibodies in the reptile’s blood kill penicillin-resistant bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus. Croc blood is also a more powerful killer of HIV than human serum. The reptile’s immune system works by attaching to bacteria and tearing it apart, causing it to explode. McNeese State Biochemistry Professor Mark Merchant is working with crocodile blood samples to isolate proteins that have antibiotic properties.

ADD TO: Croc Blood

McNeese and fellow researchers expect that any resulting antibiotics would probably have to be synthesized for human consumption and could be delivered in tablet or ointment form. Merchant suggests that one topical application might be the treatment of diabetic ulcer wounds. Crocodile blood has also been of interest to scientists in the ongoing search for possible blood substitutes.

“LEAN” LAB MANAGER WANTED

Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington recently posted a position for an Administrative Director of Laboratories with a unique qualification. It seeks a candidate with “Lean” experience, noting in the posting that “LEAN design techniques will be implemented as a part of the laboratory expansion project.” The 623-bed tertiary care center is about to launch a major Lean makeover of its core laboratory.

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