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PAML Partners to Launch Cancer Diagnostic Tool

February 14, 2014

Product includes precise genetic sequence testing

Katie Ross | Journal of Business

Spokane, WA—Spokane-based national reference laboratory Pathologist Associates Medical Laboratory LLC is launching with its partner, Seattle-based lab CellNetix Pathology & Laboratories, a new cancer diagnostic product, which will be marketed under the name Symbiodx.

Dr. Francisco Velázquez, president and CEO of PAML, says the company purchased a minority equity position in CellNetix last year. Velázquez declines to disclose the terms but says it was a multimillion-dollar transaction.

The main goal of the partnership, Velázquez says, was to enable PAML to access CellNetix’s services and expertise to create and launch Symbiodx nationally as an oncology diagnostic product. The product will be available in about three weeks, he says.

“PAML, as one of our strategic imperatives, wants to have an oncology product line, which is not something PAML was able to do in the past,” Velázquez says.

Symbiodx is a set of diagnostic tools and tests that allow doctors to very precisely diagnose and analyze organ cancers.

One of the key aspects of Symbiodx is next-generation sequencing, which is a tool for identifying specific cancer gene sequences.

“It’s important because we know cancer is not a homogenous process; it doesn’t have a single cell type,” Velázquez says. “This test has markers to allow us to determine specifically how that cancer should be treated.”

The benefits to this kind of testing relate to how specific the genetic sequencing is, Velázquez says, which allows doctors to customize treatments.

“Colon cancer from one person isn’t the same as colon cancer in another,” he says.

Symbiodx also features other diagnostic tools, Velázquez says, all designed to look at organ cancers and not only diagnose the disease but also offer direction for possible treatments and prognoses. He also says the company is looking into making diagnostic tools for other areas of medicine as well.

Velázquez says that the equity ownership in CellNetix also is giving PAML access to services that it previously didn’t have. Historically, he says, PAML hasn’t done much of what’s known as anatomical pathology, which deals with analyzing body tissues. It focuses on clinical pathology, which deals with bodily fluids.

“For us to compete on a national scale, we needed to have that component,” Velázquez says. “Clinical and anatomical go together when you offer a full-reference lab product.”

Velázquez says the partnership also gives PAML access to more pathologists with more specialties. CellNetix has about 50 pathologists within 27 subspecialties, he says.

PAML is owned by Renton-based Providence Health & Services and Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives. It’s also the co-founder of PACLAB Network Laboratories on the West Side, and has eight joint ventures around the country, in states such as Idaho, Washington, Utah, California, and Kentucky. It now employs more than 1,700 people, Velázquez says. Founded here in 1957, the company has annual revenue of about $250 million.

The idea of partnering with another laboratory in order to expand services is something Velázquez says others in the health care industry should do more.

Reposted with permission of the Spokane Journal of Business.