University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Vermont Medicine Magazine

Leonard & Sidiropoulos Open New Genomic Medicine Lab at UVM Medical Center

Debra Leonard, M.D., Ph.D., left, and Nikoletta Sidiropoulos, M.D. (Photos: Larner COM Creative Services)

The University of Vermont Medical Center opened a Genomic Medicine laboratory January 27, 2016 to expand its use of advanced genetic testing that doctors can use to develop treatments tailored to individual patients. By pinpointing genetic variations related to a patient’s disease or disease risk, genomic testing leads to a more accurate diagnosis, which may allow providers to choose a therapy targeted at the underlying cause of a specific patient’s illness.  

Since early 2016, patients of the UVM Health Network with solid tumor cancers – such as lung, colon and melanoma – have benefitted from genomic testing, which is only available at a limited number of academic medical centers in the U.S.  The new lab will allow testing of blood cancers, cardiovascular disease and neurological conditions, among other illnesses. 

“What was once thought of as lung cancer is now known to be many types of a disease that reacts differently to varying treatments,” said Debra Leonard, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UVM Health Network and UVM Larner College of Medicine. “With the precision treatments made possible by genome sequencing, some of our patients have had their tumors decrease in size.”

“Genomic medicine provides the fundamental medical information we need to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment, which is critically important as we move to a health care model that emphasizes keeping people healthy,” said John Brumsted, M.D., president and CEO of the UVM Health Network and CEO of the UVM Medical Center.  “This is a great advance for the UVM Health Network and the patients and families we serve.”

“I want to congratulate Dr. Leonard and her team for successfully pursuing the goal of offering our patients leading-edge genomic testing,” said Eileen Whalen, M.H.A., R.N., president and chief operating officer of the UVM Medical Center.  “It’s this kind of dedication to improving patient care that has made us one of the top academic medical centers in the nation.”

“In addition to its expected benefits for patients, the establishment of this laboratory also provides an unparalleled opportunity for health care services research, including whether accessing genomic information leads to better outcomes for patients and more cost-effective care,” said Frederick Morin, M.D., dean of the Larner College of Medicine. “The way we are bringing genome sequencing into clinical medicine should make UVM a model system for others to emulate.”

“Our sincerest thanks to everyone at the UVM Medical Center and UVM Medical Group who supported our vision to take this exciting step in the development of our Genomic Medicine program," said Nikoletta Sidiropoulos, M.D., the program’s medical director.  “Personalized therapy and prevention informed by genomics will become a significant part of medical care in the coming years, and we are determined that our patients will fully benefit from the promise of Genomic Medicine,” she added. 

The 5,000-square-foot facility consolidates UVM Medical Center’s genomic testing into one clinical laboratory space specifically designed for this purpose.  The different steps of genomic testing will be performed across three separate specially designed rooms to meet regulatory requirements.

For more information, visit the Genomic Medicine website.