First International School of Biomedical Diagnostics breaks new ground

International School of Biomedical Diagnostics

Two innovative universities – Arizona State University and Dublin City University (DCU), Dublin, Ireland – are joining forces to create a new International School of Biomedical Diagnostics, which will offer the first degree program of its kind. The initiative is at the cutting edge of establishing diagnostics as an independent discipline.

Diagnostics are at the center of health care innovation today. They are involved in more than 60 percent of clinical decision-making and the industry employs more than 3.5 million people worldwide. Diagnostics are critical to personalized medicine – the process of targeting drugs to those for whom they will be most effective.

The new school’s U.S. and European bases are home to diagnostic research centers in each region. In the United States, Arizona is a growing academic and industrial hub for diagnostics. The state is home to the largest U.S. diagnostics laboratories and nonprofit institutes, as well as innovative diagnostic companies such as Ventana Medical Systems. ASU is a leader in the field, with its Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics and the recently established National Biomarker Development Alliance.

In Ireland, DCU hosts the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI), a world-class multidisciplinary research institute focused on the development of next-generation point-of-care biomedical diagnostic devices. Funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the BDI addresses major clinical challenges informed by the partnership of clinicians, scientists and industry. Building on ASU’s strong partnership with DCU, and their work with Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., this initiative is at the cutting edge in establishing diagnostics as an independent discipline.

“This school has been designed and implemented as a result of ASU’s partnerships with Dublin City University and Ventana Medical Systems,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “This is a tremendous example of how higher education is being transformed on a global basis through new technology-enabled collaborations. The school will have a huge impact on personalized medicine, as well as lowering health care costs and focusing on earlier disease detection and on wellness rather than illness.”

“The school is being launched at a critical time in health care, worldwide,” said Mara G. Aspinall, president and CEO of Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of the Roche Group. “Now is the time for diagnostics to be recognized as an independent and distinct discipline. With the significant advances in technology, diagnostics play a critical role in every aspect of the health care system – from pharmaceutical drug development to patient treatment.”

The new school will draw from several assets of each institution. At DCU, the school will build upon the award-winning Master of Science in Biomedical Diagnostics program based at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, and upon expertise from its faculties of Science and Health, Engineering and Computing and DCU Business School. Pending approval from the Arizona Board of Regents, the ASU school will involve faculty from the Biodesign Institute, School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Health Solutions, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, W. P. Carey School of Business and Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes. The initiative will also leverage the expertise of the National Biomarker Development Alliance, led by ASU.

“This is an important and exciting development of global significance," said DCU President Brian MacCraith. "The field of diagnostics is changing rapidly, and education programs must keep pace with developments. By combining the expertise and geographical context of ASU and DCU, and by collaborating with industry partners such as Ventana, we will be in a strong position to provide programs that are always at the cutting edge.”

Classes begin in fall 2014. Degrees will be offered by ASU and DCU. The program will employ a blended learning approach, adopting online and face-to-face elements. Students also will be offered the opportunity to get involved in research or industry immersion programs, as well as internship experiences at both sites.

“The creation of this international school will allow students the unique opportunity to gain knowledge and expertise in a distinct discipline from two universities whose commitment to quality education is unwavering,” said Robert E. Page, ASU provost. “Through our collaborative work with DCU, we are able to reach more students to better prepare those who are looking to expand their education and prepare for careers in biomedical diagnostics.”

The first degree offered will be an international Master of Science in Biomedical Diagnostics with shared curriculum and courses offered by both universities. The academic programs will attract students from a mix of recent college graduates and those working in industry wanting to further their careers.

“This is a very exciting development," said professor Richard O’Kennedy, chair of the biomedical diagnostics degree program for DCU and scientific director of its Biomedical Diagnostics Institute. "Our award-winning Master of Science in Biomedical Diagnostics is already creating the right type of graduate for the fast-growing medical device industry. This international collaboration will enhance the learning experience for students, creating highly qualified graduates for the global diagnostics industry.” 

Four core curriculum areas will be the foundation of the school, covering the biomedical diagnostics field. They include the:

Technology of Diagnostics, which will explore instrument and assay development, biomedical engineering and diagnostic product development

Science of Diagnostics, which will focus on the underlying bioinformatics and biostatistical analysis, clinical trial design, regulatory systems and the technology behind imaging, pathology, molecular and sequencing technology

Business of Diagnostics, which will encompass public and private health care finance and reimbursement, and personalized health care, including companion diagnostics

Application of Diagnostics, which will be taught through case studies on critical diagnostics-related issues, including bioethics, clinical utility, intellectual property, smart systems, and modality integration and systems analysis

“There is a significant global need for well-trained people in the workforce focusing on these areas of health care, as well as filling the needs of people already in the industry who can augment their skills and be effective in the field of personalized medicine,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “The new International School of Biomedical Diagnostics fits our goal of building global collaborations around topics that have a profound impact on humanity.”

Panchanathan added that the international school is expected to have 100 students per year within its first five years.