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Diagnostics Profession, Companion diagnostics, Biochemistry and molecular biology

Collaborate or Crash

At this year’s European Congress of Pathology in Belgrade, a senior director of a multinational manufacturing company told me, “It’s time for pathologists and manufacturers to club together to inspire change and to ensure that patients get treated earlier.” In essence, he recognized the truth that collaboration is essential for true personalized therapy. But collaboration is a broadly used and sometimes nebulous term. What does it really mean? “Working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals,” according to Wikipedia – a definition that is accompanied by an image of a team building a 15-meter-tall human pyramid, a feat which must be particularly perturbing for the man who must climb to form its peak. No less worrying – but I would argue more challenging – are the mountainous challenges that must be overcome by those who operate in the field of diagnostics.

Unarguably, our ever-increasing knowledge of genetics and disease, and the resulting growth of molecular diagnostics and personalized therapeutics is improving healthcare. But what does this expanded knowledge mean for those operating in labs? Higher workloads, continuously revised educational curricula, the necessity for new technology and techniques, growing financial pressures...

And what about those manufacturing the companion diagnostics and developing molecular technologies? The rapid expansion of personalized medicine certainly presents a great deal of commercial opportunity, but not without significant challenges, including the need to develop products that suit small and high volume labs (both in terms of budget and capabilities) – no easy task. And let’s not forget the rising financial constraints faced by their potential customer base and the difficulties in convincing purse holders (governments, health service providers, hospitals) of the long-term value of new products and technologies. The overall outcome is a painfully slow uptake of molecular diagnostics. Who is most affected? The patient.

This month, we tell the story of an ambitious collaborative endeavor in the UK that aims to ease the perilous climb, by bringing together pathologists, a companion diagnostics manufacturer, quality assurance service providers and the UK’s National Health Service. And though the story is inspiring, a great many more ventures of a similar nature will be needed if the challenges are to be met on a wider scale. Notably, such collaborative efforts demand a change in the mindsets of pathologists and lab professionals.

To quote the head of a Spanish university pathology department who passionately spoke with me on the topic: “As pathologists, we need to step out of our comfort zone. We need to start behaving differently – now.”

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About the Author
Fedra Pavlou

After graduating with a pharmacology degree, I began my career in scientific publishing and communications. Now with more than 16 years of experience in this field, my career has seen me heading up editorial and writing teams at Datamonitor, Advanstar and KnowledgePoint360 group. My past experiences have taught me something very important – that you have to enjoy working with, and have respect for your colleagues. It’s this that drew me to Texere where I now work with old colleagues and new. Though we are a hugely diverse team, we share several things in common – a real desire to work hard to succeed, to be the best at what we do, never to settle for second best, and to have fun while we do it. I am now honored to serve as Editor of The Pathologist and Editorial Director of Texere Publishing.

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