Meet Michel Cameron & Biron
Michel Cameron is the Assistant Director of Pharmacogenomics at Biron Health Group. His role involves the implementation of pharmacogenomics in clinical practice, the development of Biron’s genetics tests, and the education of healthcare professionals.
For almost 70 years, Biron has dedicated itself to offering personalized and rapid healthcare services. Proudly Canadian and headquartered in Brossard, Quebec, Biron provides patients, physicians, and organizations with an ecosystem of services, expertise, and data to harness the full potential of medical information. Having first built its reputation on the expertise of its medical laboratory, Biron has diversified its range of services over the years to offer medical imaging, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, pharmacogenetic tests to predict the response to drugs, and much more. If you are interested in learning more about their PGx work, please visit www.biron.com.
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Interview with Michel
How did Biron get into the PGx testing space? How do you use the MassARRAY?
With regards to pharmacogenomics, it is well-known today that genetics can be decisive in how an individual reacts to a drug. This is especially useful for patients suffering from mental illness such as depression. For many, the first antidepressant they take is not very effective because of unwanted side effects, such as nausea or insomnia, and for others, the medication is simply not effective in treating the symptoms. When this happens, it can mean the beginning of a long process of trial-and-error, where the patient has to try many different medications before finding one that works.
The field of PGx was a natural fit for Biron Health Group, given its patient-centric approach. Pharmacogenomics allows a complete 4P medicine: Predictive, personalized, preventive and participatory. In addition, this approach is equally beneficial for physicians, as they have the confidence that they are prescribing the right drugs, at the right dose and for the right patient.
Ultimately, Biron’s test identifies those drugs that are at higher than usual risk of causing unwanted side effects or having little or no symptoms improvement. With our reports, we can often explain why a person had a bad experience with medication and guide the healthcare provider towards a dose adjustment or other therapeutic options that would be better suited for the patient.
Our team uses the MassARRAY® from Agena Bioscience® to evaluate specific genetic variants that are relevant for our pharmacogenomic reports.
What motivated you to create your own panel and begin in-house testing?
After outsourcing our tests for the first few years, we wanted to have better control over our operations to ensure that the quality of our tests was up to our elevated standards and to provide timely results to our clients. This also allowed us to further develop our offering by designing our own custom panel and launching a pharmacogenomic test for ADHD patients.
What features were important to you when you were choosing a testing technology?
We needed a technology that would allow us to reliably test specific genetic variants, such as the CYP2D6 copy number variants. We wanted the flexibility to perform only the assays that were relevant for our tests in reasonable turn-around times. Since we preferred to collect saliva samples, we also had to choose a technology that was compatible with this type of specimen while being reliable in terms of precision and accuracy. With these considerations in mind, the MassARRAY System became our clear choice.
What attracted you to the MassARRAY?
The MassARRAY offered robust technology and good performance for the CYP2D6 CNV. Moreover, it enabled both genotyping and copy number variation testing to be performed on the same run. We also found that designing a custom genotyping panel to fit our needs was relatively easy.
How did you design your custom panel?
To build our custom panel, we reviewed the available scientific literature on the pharmacogenomics of ADHD and used Agena’s Assay Design Suite software. This made the whole process simple and easy with minimal troubleshooting required.
Why is CYP2D6 detection important to your customers?
CYP2D6 copy number variation (CNV) detection is a critical aspect of PGx testing, especially for medications used in the treatment of mental illness. Not only is it important to detect whether an individual has zero or extra copies of the CYP2D6 gene, it is also important to know which version is duplicated. To a certain extent, the MassARRAY allows us to determine these hybrid alleles, which is not something that can be said of other technologies.
How has using the MassARRAY helped with CYP2D6 detection?
The MassARRAY can reliably determine CYP2D6 copy number, even in the presence of CYP2D6 hybrid alleles. In addition to detection accuracy, the MassARRAY allows us to perform genotyping and copy number variation on the same instrument using the same workflow.