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Austin Tanney, PhD

Austin Tanney, PhD

Austin Tanney, PhD, Scientific Liaison Manager for Almac Diagnostics, UK, discusses the opportunities and challenges of working with FFPE tissue, and his visions for technologies driving towards personalized medicine.

We are at the beginning of an exciting journey towards developing personalized medicine treatment regimes, where a patient is diagnosed and an appropriate therapy is selected based on their personal molecular profiles. At the heart of effective personalized medicine is the development and validation of clinically actionable biomarker-based diagnostics.

There are a number of FDA-cleared array-based diagnostics on the market now, and the GeneChip® Instrument System itself is IVD-cleared, which is a huge benefit.

As a standard clinical sample type, formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples provide a tremendous opportunity to discover, validate, and apply novel biomarker signatures. Estimates suggest that there are nearly one billion FFPE samples stored in biobanks globally, representing an invaluable resource of samples for clinical research. The value of these archived samples is that they are often accompanied by extensive clinical annotation including, most importantly, clinical outcome. This allows for the rapid retrospective discovery and validation of biomarkers, often saving years and thousands of dollars associated with prospectively acquiring clinical samples. In addition, being able to use FFPE samples represents no requirement to change standard practice for sample acquisition. For these reasons, it has been the medical research community's strong desire (and necessity) to work with FFPE samples for genomic and transcriptomic biomarker studies. Until now, working with FFPE tissue for such studies has been challenging due to the poor quality and quantity of nucleic acid obtained from these samples.

Austin Tanney, Scientific Liaison Manager for Almac Diagnostics, has built a wealth of knowledge on how to successfully discover and validate clinically applicable expression biomarkers from difficult FFPE samples using array technology. In this article, Austin discusses the opportunities and challenges of working with FFPE tissue, the use of arrays for clinical test development, and his visions for technologies driving toward personalized medicine.

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