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TriCore lab signs deal to sell bio samples

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One local healthcare player is looking to turn remnant laboratory specimens into cash and help advance medical science.

New Mexico-based TriCore Reference Laboratories on Monday said it has inked an agreement with iSpecimen, a Boston company that connects medical researchers with appropriate specimens from laboratories and hospitals.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

When a patient has blood drawn, some of it’s used for testing to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan, but afterward it’s often discarded, though hospitals and clinical labs are now selling these leftovers for research purposes. They tend to go with biobanking, in which huge repositories of patient samples are kept on hand.

That where iSpecimen comes in — building a sort of next-gen version of biobanking. It sources these remaining patient samples, and makes them, and the associated data, available to researchers on demand. Depending on what the project is, TriCore could be shipping blood and tissue samples to major drug companies from its repository for researchers working on cures for cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

“TriCore has been a long-time supporter of the advancement of biomedical research,” said Eric Carbonneau, director of the core lab operations & research institute at TriCore. “The new agreement with iSpecimen will allow us to expand our reach across the scientific community, providing specimens directly for the discovery of new diagnostics and therapeutics. The increased visibility for TriCore with researchers throughout the country will also allow us to participate in more translational research and clinical trials.”

According to a TriCore spokeswoman, patients sign a consent for the purpose of testing when they visit a draw site (whether it is a TriCore location or any other company).  After that, personal information is removed from the sample to ensure privacy.

“Collaborating with TriCore is a milestone achievement for us,” said Christopher Ianelli, MD and CEO at iSpecimen. “Their specimen volume and diversity will be appealing for many different types of research, and their reputation as a testing powerhouse speaks to the quality and efficiency of their practices. We are really excited to begin technology implementation and start matching researchers with the specimens they need with the characteristics they want.

In a recent presentation at the 2016 Executive War College on Laboratory and Pathology Management in New Orleans, Ianelli said, “They (human biospecimens) are assets that have value, around which you can create another business line that is meaningful and will help not only your top line and your bottom line, but also the research community at large.”

He described the demand for biospecimens as “booming” due to the “explosive growth” of biomarker discovery and development in a new era of precision medicine. He said the global research biospecimen market for blood and biofluids and solid tissue is growing 15 percent to 20 percent per year, creating a “multiple billion dollar industry,” according to Visiongain’s 2014 Industry Report.

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