From Disneyland to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: ARUP Tours and Reception Impressed ACMG Conference Participants

April 1, 2015

Disneyland in Utah? Some participants from the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) annual clinical meeting in downtown Salt Lake City thought they glimpsed a bit of Disneyland dynamics as they toured ARUP Laboratories’ Specimen Receiving area last Friday evening—where test tubes and specimens spin, chug, slide, and ride their way along automated equipment, complete with robotic arms, to their final destination. “It’s like the Disneyland of medical laboratories,” exclaimed a handful of geneticists from Mount Sinai Hospital.

Nearly 200 genetics-minded people from two national genetic conferences held in Salt Lake City hopped on board buses up to University of Utah’s Research Park area to enjoy the ARUP Food/Wine Mixer and Genetic Lab Tours. ARUP’s medical directors, who are world-renowned leaders in their fields, provided small group tours and Q & A sessions in their labs, with lab specialties ranging from supplemental newborn screening, molecular oncology, and genetic sequencing to fragment analysis, biochemical genetics, and cytogenetics.

“What really stood out for me was the scale of ARUP's operations,” says Bernadette Toner, chief executive of GenomeWeb. “The level of automation in the sample receiving section is truly impressive, especially considering the amount of custom work that went into putting together those systems. My colleagues and I thought it was like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!”

By partnering with the University of Utah Program in Personalized Health Care and the University of Utah Genetics Department, ARUP was able to provide participants with a display of poster presentations highlighting the leading-edge research going on in their own departments and attend several case studies presented by ARUP faculty.

“This reception highlighted some exciting projects and resources in the area of personalized health at ARUP Laboratories and the University of Utah,” states Emily Coonrod, PhD, manager of the Program in Personalized Health at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “It was also a great networking opportunity with ACMG attendees and a chance for enjoyable conversations with colleagues from ARUP, Utah Genome Project, Center for Clinical & Translational Science, and USTAR Center for  Genetic Discovery.”

The reception was an opportunity to relax after the conference, as well as an chance to see inside one of the nation’s largest reference medical laboratories, which oversees some 35,000 incoming specimens a day and represents patients ranging from newborns to those fighting cancers or rare diseases.

“They recognize what’s at stake in the lives of the patients they serve and are clearly passionate about accuracy from the point of collection, to shipping and receiving, to analysis and reporting,” observed Christopher Nelson, executive director of the University Hospital Foundation.

“ARUP’s expansion into genomic medicine solidifies their place as the country’s top reference laboratory,” adds Nelson. “But what it really means is that they can provide the timely, accurate information for healthcare providers and their patients when it matters the most.”

By Peta Owens-Liston, ARUP Science Communications Writer