Mayo Clinic's deal to send 100K DNA samples to drugmaker is a 'win-win'

Mayo Clinic is currently preparing to send 100,000 blood samples to Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in what health system leaders describe not as a sale of patient information, but as a research-driven "exchange," the Post-Bulletin reports.

Under the partnership, finalized in June, Mayo Clinic's Biobank will ship the samples to Regeneron, which will sequence the DNA and use the resulting data for research and development of new drugs. Regeneron will return the sequencing data to Mayo Clinic for the health system's own research, and may also sell the anonymized information to other research organizations.

The samples sent to Regeneron comprise Mayo Clinic patients and employees, and reportedly date back to the Biobank's 2009 creation. Each individual consented to having their DNA shared for commercial purposes, and will not have access to the raw sequencing data, though any relevant results from follow-up clinical research conducted by the Mayo Clinic could eventually be added to their medical records.

After a recent article in The Wall Street Journal raised questions about the flow of patient data between healthcare organizations and commercial parties, Dr. Keith Stewart, medical director for the clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine, clarified to the Post-Bulletin that the partnership is not financial in nature.

"There's no exchange of money … It's a mischaracterization to say it is a sale," Dr. Stewart said. "It's more of an exchange. We see it as a win-win," he added, noting that, in exchange for the data, Regeneron will be covering the expenses of DNA sequencing, which can cost up to $300 per sample and is not part of Mayo's budget, but can lead to invaluable findings in both research and clinical settings.

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