Gene sequencing and cutting hospitals costs — in the morning papers

There he is again, Harvard geneticist George Church.  Fresh off denying that he was looking for a surrogate to gestate a Neanderthal baby, he’s in the Times business section. He is pictured with his hand laying on the top of a genome sequencing machine a tad bigger than a dorm room refrigerator.  They say the device, made available by a Cambridge company is for researchers and docs, but it costs a lot less than a cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. So who knows?

Over the past few years, the cost of mapping one person’s genome has dropped to around $6,000 from about $250,000, and it is expected to  widget-knome-overview-zerogo far lower. And, as genomic medicine quickly evolves, a powerful computer packed with software has arrived to interpret sequences privately within the walls of a lab, in contrast to systems that use the Internet and distant servers. The software parses variants in DNA, looking for ones that may be important.

The appliance, made by a human-genome interpretation company called Knome, is the size of a file cabinet and costs $125,000. Knome will begin shipping it in coming months to researchers investigating the genetic basis forcancer, rare diseases and drug response, said Jorge Conde, a co-founder of the company along with Dr. George M. Church, a geneticist and professor at Harvard Medical School.

A bit more on Knome here. 

Closer to home, the Globe story on efficiencies  at the Steward Healthcare System stays out of the Cheesecake Factory kitchen. Atul Gawandes’ New Yorker story compared the chain hospitals’ approach to the of the chain restaurant.

Like everything else about for-profit Steward — robotic surgery, fixed-rate insurance contracts, managers working with patients to prevent hospital readmissions — the e-ICU is focused on innovation, efficiency, and finding ways to save money.

It’s a formula that has been reshaping the way business is done in the state’s health care industry ever since Steward was formed by a New York buyout firm in 2010 to take over the struggling Caritas Christi Health Care chain. But whether the makeover will achieve its most important goals — making medical care less expensive in Massachusetts and making a profit for Steward — remains an open question. What is certain is that Steward has become a force in this critical industry.


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