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Aurora Health Care Unveils ORBIT, A Cutting-Edge Research Instrument

Vast clinical specimen library and open health databank promise to speed scientific discovery.

MILWAUKEE, April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Aurora Health Care announces the launch of its Open-Source Robotic Biorepository & Informatics Technology, ORBIT. This dynamic research instrument may streamline medical discovery by providing scientists with a widely diverse library of specimens to be used in research.



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It also could expand medical discovery by creating a databank where researchers worldwide can share information. This will minimize study repetition and allow researchers to build on previous results.

ORBIT also will contribute to the study of pharmacogenomics, a branch of science in which genetic markers are analyzed to better predict who may benefit from a drug or have an adverse reaction.

It can take years to recruit enough patients for a clinical trial. ORBIT's specimen and databanks could replace this lengthy recruitment phase, shortening the amount of time needed to complete clinical research.

ORBIT is essential to Aurora's mission to improve patient care, said Sue Ela, R.N., executive vice president of Aurora Health Care and president of Aurora's metro region.

"We are committed to bringing the latest research to our patients," she says. "ORBIT will aid in the translation of science to the patient's bedside."

By assisting health care research, Aurora's hope is to help make drugs and other therapies more effective, safer and less expensive, Ela says.

Patient recruitment for ORBIT is being rolled out at Aurora's 13 hospitals and 120 clinics in eastern Wisconsin, starting with its Milwaukee facilities. It will be expanded throughout the system over time.

If patients agree to participate, blood left over from their lab tests is sent to the ORBIT center. Eventually, other specimens, such as saliva or tissue, could be collected. At the center, a robot extracts DNA from the blood, bar codes the specimen and stores it in a freezer that holds up to 76,800 vials.

Bar coding allows the specimen to be linked with the person's electronic medical record without identifying information such as a name, ensuring patient privacy.

The medical history and other information tied to each specimen is updated as participants return to Aurora for care, keeping information current and adding to the databank's research value.

ORBIT could speed the development of personalized medicine, says Randall Lambrecht, Ph.D., Aurora's vice president of research and academic relations.

"The field of pharmacogenomics aims to find a way to determine the most effective drug for an individual with the fewest side effects, based on that person's genetic makeup," Lambrecht says. "This is the prelude to 'personalized medicine,' where a drug or drug combinations are developed specifically for an individual."

Physicians know that not all patients respond to the same drug in the same way. Some chemotherapy drugs, for instance, help only 30 percent of breast cancer patients. ORBIT would give researchers the ability to look at how a patient's age, gender, race, weight, medical history and genetic markers contribute to a drug's usefulness, with the ultimate goal of learning how to find the right therapy, at the right place at the right time.

"By evaluating all these factors, ideally it will be possible to create a formula to determine which drug, at what dose, would be right for each patient," says Matthew Tector, Ph.D., ORBIT's director. "We hope to improve patient care by supporting health care research with this repository.

Aurora Health Care sees 1.8 million patients a year and serves some of the most diverse communities in Wisconsin. At Aurora St. Luke's, more than 70 percent of patients have agreed to participate, which puts the program on pace to becoming one of the largest, most diverse biorepositories in the world.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers care at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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