New Kaiser genomics lab in San Jose uses robots for testing

An archway of blue and white balloons adorned the entrance of an otherwise unremarkable office building in San Jose this week, marking the grand opening of a new high-tech laboratory for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, which serves 4.5 million people in the region.

The new lab is an effort to expand and streamline some common genetic testing routinely done by the insurer and health care provider, and a step towards increasing access to one of the next frontiers in tech and medicine, personalized “precision” treatment based on genome testing.

“Genomics is the study of all the genes… in contrast to genetics… the study of a single condition or trait,” said Dr. Jason Rosenbaum, the director of the new lab, and a pathologist with Kaiser.

Dr. Jason Rosenbaum, a molecular genetic pathologist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Regional Laboratory walks through a section fo the new facility on Monday, April 1, 2023, in San Jose, Calif. The new genomics lab will expand diagnostic testing capabilities and provide early screening and intervention for its 4.5 million members. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

Rosenbaum led a tour of the facilities Monday, taking a group of reporters and cameras from one sterile, shiny, white room to another, each with several giant printer-like machines, moving around tiny pallets with dozens of samples, as technicians in white lab coats supervised.

The grand opening marked the first time the lab ran a non-invasive pre-natal screening test, one of several pre-natal screenings that can be done. This option is done with a blood test, anytime after the 10th week of pregnancy. Advanced technology allows technicians to measures small pieces of fetal DNA in the mother’s blood, and is used to screen for certain chromosome disorders, including Down Syndrome.

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