In Memoriam

Feb. 1, 2009


In Memoriam
On Dec. 30, 2008, ARUP Laboratories announced the passing of Dennis Patrick Monahan, vice president for national contracts, who died suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack on Dec. 24. Memorial services were held on Dec. 28 in Park City, UT. Monahan is survived by his wife Susan, son Matt, and brother Mike of Denver. Monahan was born in 1948 in Pasadena, CA. He served in the U.S. Army before attending Western State College in Colorado. After college, Monahan worked in sales and account management for several medical laboratory companies, ultimately making the decision to work for ARUP Laboratories as its first professional salesperson. Monahan was with ARUP for 24 of its 25 years and worked diligently in many capacities. His loyalty and dedication to ARUP and to all with whom he worked was profound. Everyone was a beneficiary of his engaging personality, thoughtfulness, and willingness to help.
New vaccines?

Gardasil for men? The Wall Street
published in early January details of Merck's announcement that
it is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for the use of its human
papillomavirus vaccine (HPV), Gardasil, for boys and young men ages nine to
26. The approval is being sought for the prevention of male genital warts
and other lesions, for which Gardasil was shown effective in recent studies.
The vaccine was approved in 2006 for girls and young women to prevent
certain strains of HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer and a sexually
transmitted virus that men carry. Merck has also submitted an application
for FDA approval for older women to use the vaccine.

Students win MIT prize for possible vaccine. News-Medical.Net reports that almost half of the world population is
infected with Helicobacter pylori which colonizes in the stomach,
causing gastritis and ulcers, and which is recognized by the World Health
Organization as a Type 1 carcinogen. The current antibacterial treatment
requires combining at least three different drugs to eliminate the bacteria,
but the combo does not prevent the oft-recurring infection. A team of
undergraduate students from Slovinia's University of Ljubljana, mentored by
scientists from the National Institute of Chemistry and University there,
worked on a project aimed at preparing a high-tech vaccine against H
. They were able to demonstrate that the modification of the H
flagellin by transplanting flagellin segments from another
bacterium efficiently activates cellular immune receptors, thus making the
H pylori flagellin visible to the immune system. The team won best in
the “Health and Medicine” track, as well as the grand prize award in overall
ranking, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's)
International Engineered Machines Competition for 2008.

Vaccine shows promise. Malaria, caused by Plasmodium falciparum — the most deadly malaria
parasite transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito — is the leading
killer of children under age five in sub-Saharan Africa, according to
. Trials in Kenya and Tanzania of an experimental
vaccine, code name RTS,S, have shown significant protection for infants and
young children, as well as demonstrating effective protection for babies and
adults in Gambia and Mozambique. It is the most promising vaccine yet to
result from 20 years of research. RTS, S induces the production of
antibodies and white blood cells that are believed to diminish the capacity
of the malaria parasite to infect, survive, and develop in the human liver.
The vaccine candidate also stimulates a protective immune response to
hepatitis B, a common infection in developing countries. The trials have
also shown that the RTS, S vaccine does not interfere with other childhood
vaccines given as part of standard immunization programs. Results of the
trials were presented in early December at the annual meeting of the
American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans and were
published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

New technology

Caltech's “bar-code chip.” A new “barcode chip”
developed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
promises to revolutionize diagnostic medical testing. In less than 10
minutes, and using just a pinprick's worth of blood, the chip can measure
the concentrations of dozens of proteins, including those that herald the
presence of diseases like cancer and heart disease. The device — the
Integrated Blood-Barcode Chip or IBBC — described in a paper in the advance
online edition of Nature Biotechnology, is about the size of a
microscope slide and is made out of a glass substrate covered with silicone
rubber. The chip's surface is molded to contain a microfluidics circuit — a
system of microscopic channels through which the pinprick of blood is
introduced, protein-rich blood plasma is separated from whole blood, and a
panel of protein biomarkers is measured from the plasma. The chip offers a
significant improvement over the cost and speed of standard lab tests to
analyze proteins in the blood. A traditional kit to test for a single
diagnostic protein costs about $50; the IBBC measures many proteins for the
cost of one. Furthermore, from pinprick to results in less than 10 minutes
means the test is cheaper because time is money.

Disease insights from infant blood. Researchers at the Van Andel
Institute (VAI) in Grand Rapids, MI, are the first to use RNA technology to
measure on a large scale the presence of genes in blood spots — the blood
drawn from newborn infants to screen for health-threatening conditions. One
of the VAI scientific investigators pointed out that researchers were able
to detect more than 3,000 genes in each sample and could quantify the levels
of several specific genes: “This is a vast, underutilized resource. Imagine
testing blood from nearly the entire population of U.S. infants and using
the data for the retrospective study of disease. If a particular disease
pops up in a specific segment of the population, you could use the data to
look for causes, biomarkers, and potential drug targets.” All 50 states in
this country have mandatory newborn-screening programs. The VAI research
means that by teaming with state health departments and utilizing existing
blood-spot archives, the scientists can improve their understanding of
diseases that are not immediately apparent at birth but have roots in the
perinatal period. According to Medical News TODAY, Michigan's state
law has required since 1986 that the state's Department of Community Health
store blood spots for 21.5 years and explicitly encourages the use of these
archived materials for medical research.


1918 flu caused by three-gene combo. Medical News Today
reported that a team of University of Wisconsin researchers and Japanese
scientists identified a combination of three genes in the flu virus that was
most likely responsible for making the 1918 flu strain so deadly. Autopsies
of its victims show fluid-filled lungs badly damaged by massive
hemorrhaging. While it was clear that the virus had colonized lung tissue,
exactly which genes gave the virus this capacity — and how — was still a
mystery. Researchers extracted genes from the 1918 flu virus (recovered from
preserved lung tissue), substituted them one by one into a variant of a
modern-day human flu virus, and created many slightly different versions.
They then tested each version on ferrets (flu spreads in them in a similar
way as it does in humans). In the majority of cases, the modified versions
of the H1N1 virus made by substituting single genes all caused infections
that stayed mainly in the upper respiratory tract. But when they tested a
reassortant (“variant”) comprising three substituted genes, it colonized
lung tissue and reproduced there. Genes PA, PB1, and PB2 allowed the virus
to make RNA polymerase in lung cells, which helps it make the proteins from
which it can make copies of itself. The pattern of virus infection with the
three-gene version of the virus was very similar to what researchers called
the “wild type” of 1918 pandemic virus. The three-gene complex is a
potential target for new types of antiviral drugs which could be useful
since vaccines are unlikely to be ready in sufficient numbers to stem a new

Infectious diseases

Website to fight HAIs. A new website devoted to
helping hospitals fight healthcare associated infections (HAIs) was
announced by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and
Epidemiology:  serves as a central
location for up-to-date scientific information about causes and
prevention of HAIs. Professionals can find resources they need to work
with hospital administrators to ensure infection prevention is a
hospital-wide commitment. According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, more than 1.7 million Americans will contract an HAI
this year, and 99,000 will die from the infections.


Correction: The deadline for CLMA's “Poster Presentations Only,” is scheduled for Friday, April 3.

Feb. 2-4. “Expanding the Platform
for Molecular Diagnostics Lab Growth and Profitability” is the subject
of the 2009 MDx Conference at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort
Lauderdale. Gain expert insight on how labs successfully integrate
molecular diagnostics into their business strategies in the current
regulatory and business environment. To learn more and register, visit .

Feb. 10-11. At the Molecular Summit in
Philadelphia's Sheraton Society Hill Hotel, meet global leaders and hear 27
speakers forging forward with integrated diagnostics services that combine
imaging with molecular diagnostics. Register at

Feb. 25-27. The 16th International
Molecular Tri-Conference, “Shaping Future Medicine,” is scheduled in the
Moscone North Convention Center in San Francisco and features 250+ speakers,
11 concurrent tracks, 160 exhibitors, and 80+ posters. The 3,000 attendees
can also pose questions to their peers during 38 break-out sessions. For
more details, go to .

April 9-10. The Toxicology and Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Conference is designed for
and sponsored by science professionals with overlapping interests in
toxicology and therapeutic drug monitoring. Joint sponsor, the Mayo Clinic
in Rochester, MN, hosts. For more information, visit
or .

April 16-17. The two-day 41st Annual Oak
Ridge Conference is for key diagnostics executives, laboratory directors at
major facilities and institutions, and academic researchers dedicated to
exploring emerging technologies for the clinical laboratory. At the Hyatt
Regency Baltimore, attendees will interact with scientists from academia and
industry who are developing a wide range of technologies for diagnostic
testing. To learn more and register, go to

April 19-23. The 2009 Professional
Practice in Clinical Chemistry at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town in
Alexandria, VA, is a comprehensive 4 1/2 -day course featuring presentations on
fundamental and state-of-the-art practices in the field of clinical
chemistry, including selected topics relevant for the emerging core
laboratory. To learn more and register, go to

April 28-29. The 14th Annual Executive
War College — a two-day program designed to help laboratory administrators
and pathologists learn practical methods for improving the organizational
performance and financial success of their laboratories — returns to the
Sheraton Hotel-New Orleans. To learn more and register, go to

May 2-5. CLMA ThinkLab '09, CLMA's
annual meeting sponsored by Orchard Software, is being held this year in the
Tampa Convention Center. Several new educational initiatives are slated for
2009. For updates and information, visit

May 4-6. The Minnesota ASCLS Clinical Lab Collaborative registration is underway,
with a deadline of April 27. Approximately 550 attendees are expected to
meet with 60 vendors at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Rooms at the
Radisson Plaza Hotel and the Hilton Garden Inn are available. Go to
 for more details and to register.

Send meeting information to:
[email protected]. MLO
cannot guarantee placement
but will make every effort to include items in its e-newsletter or on
its website.