University of Minnesota licenses lupus test to LabCorp

The University of Minnesota has licensed a test for lupus to Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings.

Developed by Emily Baechler Gillespie, an assistant professor of medicine at the medical school, the test can help doctors proactively treat symptoms of lupus, a painful autoimmune disease.

Like other autoimmune disorders, lupus occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, causing inflammation, pain, and damage to organs.

At least 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from lupus, primarily African American women of childbearing age, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.

Lupus patients specifically suffer from “flares,” when symptoms suddenly appear and worsen quickly. Until now, there has been no way for doctors to predict a flare until it actually occurs. By then, the disease can already do serious damage.

Using algorithms, or advanced mathematical equations, Gillespie and her team developed a test that analyzes blood samples for a panel of four chemokines, a group of proteins that are released by an activated immune system.

Changes in chemokine levels could indicate a flare, which allows doctors to adjust treatments accordingly.

LabCorp is one of the country’s largest diagnostics companies that provides services ranging from routine blood analysis to HIV and genomic testings. Last year, the company generated $4.7 billion in revenue.

In September, LabCorp said it would pay $795 million to purchase Genzyme Genetics, a business unit of Genzyme Corp. that specializes in reproductive and oncology testing.

One of LabCorp’s chief competitors is MedTox Scientific Inc. in St. Paul.

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