PMF Interviews Dr Valtteri Wirta, Speaker at Nordic Precision Medicine Forum 2020/2021

For our Nordic Precision Medicine Forum 2020/2021 we decided to conduct some interviews with our speakers for these events. We wanted to give you all some extra insight into the speakers and the organisations they work for.

Firstly, we will introduce Dr Valtteri Wirta, Director, Clinical Genomics facility, Science for Life Laboratory who has done brilliant research with his organisation SciFiLab that will be of interest to many of you reading this article.

Keep reading for the Q&A interview we did with Dr Wirta.

  • Your facility aims to improve the capacity of the public health microbiology for national surveillance of infectious diseases and for epidemic preparedness. Can you comment on how this has assisted in the fight against COVID-19?

During the current pandemic large resources have been mobilised in Sweden to combat SARS-CoV-2 and bespoke infrastructures have been established. My unit has been involved in providing analyses of the host genome to better understand response to the virus.

  • What do you see as the critical bottlenecks in translating genomics based tools to the clinical setting?

Genomics based assays are already frequently in use in clinical setting in Sweden, and a common challenge in implementing these has been the need to both provide data demonstrating the additional value compared to current standard of care diagnostics, as well as to build the necessary domain knowhow in the entire diagnostic chain starting from sample management, wet-lab operations, bioinformatics to clinical interpretation. There is also a need to combine technical and medical expertise in a way that has typically not been done before.

  • SciLifeLab holds an enviable position through its collaboration between research, healthcare, industry and other partners. Why is this so important to realise the potential of precision medicine?

Precision medicine requires interdisciplinary collaborations; a key example is the need to work in the research to diagnostics continuum in order to fully realise the potential of precision medicine. To accelerate the development in this space, collaborations between stakeholders from academia, healthcare and industry are essential.

  • What key elements of these collaborations could provide a model for other countries to follow?

One of the major opportunities in Sweden in relation to precision medicine is the opportunity to implement this systematically across the entire healthcare system. The publicly funded healthcare ensures equal access across the nation, and also a fairly rapid implementation. A key example of this is the implementation of whole-genome sequencing in the Stockholm healthcare region for diagnostics of rare inherited diseases. Today this advanced genomics-based testing is available in most university healthcare regions, and in a few years time across the entire healthcare system.

Thank you to Dr Wirta for taking the time to answer our questions and we are intrigued to see how the whole-genome sequencing in the Stockholm region is implemented.

If you’re interested in seeing what more Dr Wirta has to say, please join us for our second Noridc Precision Medicine Forum session on November 4.

Visit our website for more information about the event and to register

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