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Windber Spinoff Aims for Better Patient Care

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It has been a little more than a year since Strategic Medicine, a for-profit spinout of the Windber Research Institute, first kicked off, but in that time the company has been steadily making inroads in its mission of advancing translational medicine.

Recently, Strategic Medicine announced the results of its collaboration with Biobase, a provider of database content and software tools for life science. The partnership combined Windber's technology and data with Biobase's capabilities in curated literature and data analysis to identify a possible adjunct biomarker to address discrepancies in the results of immunohistochemistry and fluorescence in situ hybridization-based Her2 testing in breast cancer patients.

According to the researchers, roughly 25 percent of breast cancer patients test positive for Her2 with IHC but negative with FISH. The collaborators were able to isolate a molecule that they believe will help explain the often-reported differences between the two test responses. "We were trying to come up with some new biomarkers for use with some of the current drugs to improve decision making with patients and physicians in the use of Herceptin," says Michael Liebman, president of Strategic Medicine and former executive director of Windber Research Institute. "So that's been a fairly new area and one that's very fruitful because it integrates a lot of resource capabilities."

The startup is also in the process of expanding its global reach in the form of Strategic Medicine, BV, an independent parallel company based in the Netherlands. Liebman says this arm was established to help the translational medicine efforts get a better foothold by taking advantage of the European healthcare infrastructure. "A lot of what we talk about in translational medicine is really preventative medicine, and that really hasn't caught on [here in the US] due to the multi-payer system," he says. "But in Europe, where you have a nationalized healthcare systems, it's a much more common consideration."

Strategic Medicine is also settling into its long-term mission of advancing Windber's approach to translational medicine, which is more bedside-to-bench, rather than bench-to-bedside. "We're building the idea of translational medicine around the perspective that you need to be able to take problems from the clinic that the physician has on a daily basis and move those into the laboratory, rather than just following academically interesting problems," Liebman says. "We think that's really where the future of medicine is headed."

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