Once a year, on Sunday during the opening plenary session of the AACC Annual Scientific Meeting, the association honors individuals in laboratory medicine for their lifetime achievements in the field and recognizes future leaders. This tradition continued last evening at the 2018 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting.
The award phase of the evening began with presentation of the AACC Past President’s Award to Michael J. Bennett. Other well-known and highly regarded educators, researchers, and committed professionals also were honored, including Robert Dufour (Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine), Fred S. Apple (Outstanding Contributions Through Service to the Profession of Clinical Chemistry), Thomas Annesley (Outstanding Contributions in Education), Allan Jaffe (AACC-AACC Academy Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry in a Selected Area of Research), and Loralie Langman (AACC Academy Professor Alvin Dubin Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Profession and the Academy).
Christina Lockwood (AACC Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievements by a Young Investigator) and Phedias Diamandis (AACC Academy George Grannis Award for Excellence in Research and Scientific Publication) also were put forth as future scientific leaders. CLN Daily posed Lockwood and Diamandis four questions to highlight their inspiring career successes and better understand their professional development.
What led you to work in your area?
Lockwood had duel interests in clinical chemistry and clinical molecular genetics and passed both boards. With this foundation, she applied core laboratory principles such as rigorous quality control and test validation to research grade next-generation sequencing (NGS) to transition NGS into clinical practice.
Meanwhile, Diamandis, after reading through proteomics papers immediately bought into the idea that protein-based readouts are an essential, emerging, and non-overlapping layer of biology. As a field, clinical proteomics is improving and growing, he emphasized.
What do you consider your most important scientific contribution to date?
Lockwood entered the molecular diagnostics field during a time of extraordinary technological change as NGS was being introduced to clinical laboratories. Her research bridges clinical service and translational research, including the under-appreciated bioinformatics challenge of processing massive amounts of data. Bioinformatics support and statistical data processes both are essential elements of her research.
Diamandis and his colleagues are extremely excited about global mass spectrometry proteomic analysis of micro-dissected formalin fixed paraffin embedded tissue, which offers the possibility of better characterizing highly heterogeneous tissue. His team has applied this technique to gain novel insights into human brain development and disease.
What will be the 5-10-year impact of your work?
The burgeoning clinical cell-free DNA field still is revealing novel insights. Lockwood believes new applications of cell-free DNA analysis will improve patient outcomes. For example, she is working on detecting cell-free DNA in cerebrospinal fluid to diagnose and monitor brain tumors in children, which might reduce the amount of radiation therapy these young patients need to undergo. Meanwhile, Diamandis believes global unbiased detection of protein levels will revolutionize our understanding of diseases.
What scientific work recommendations would you give to junior professionals?
Diamandis advised up-and-coming professionals to focus on their progress and to be proud of their work. In addition, he suggested that when given the opportunity to present their research, early career investigators take the time to make it understandable, interesting, and always to show their excitement about their efforts. Lockwood recommended that junior researchers consider not only the merit of their scientific question but also the people they will partner with as clinical collaborators.
Honored at this point in their careers, Lockwood and Diamandis exemplify dedicated researchers seeking through scientific discovery to make tangible contributions to patient care.