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Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft announces $25 million gift from philanthropist Denny Sanford to fund precision medicine initiative for U.S. veterans

Mar 12, 2019 10:00AM ● By MED Magazine

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Sanford Health will provide pharmacogenetic testing to U.S. veterans at no cost to the veterans through a donation-funded program as part of an innovative partnership to improve patient care and lower costs related to adverse reactions to medications.

The program, which launches this year at a pilot site in Durham, North Carolina, will initially enroll cancer survivors but will eventually expand to up to 250,000 U.S. veterans at 125 sites by 2022.

“This will be the largest pharmacogenetic testing effort in the country by orders of magnitude,” said Dr. Deepak Voora, M.D., Director, VA PHASeR Program Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine.  “We have the potential to improve patient care for each veteran we test, and the scale of the effort will allow us to see trends and conduct research that could improve medical care for the entire population.”

PHASeR: Pharmacogenomics Action for Cancer Survivorship, is funded by a $25 million gift from philanthropist Denny Sanford and a matching fundraising effort from Sanford Health. The test can help determine which medications will be most effective for patients, improving access to appropriate treatments and reducing adverse drug reactions, which research from the NIH shows costs up to $30 billion per year.

The test results will help patients’ physicians with clinical decision-making for a variety of pharmaceutical treatments, including mental health and cardiovascular diseases, and pain management.

 Veterans Administration Secretary Robert Wilkie lauded the partnership and said relationships like this will continue to transform the VA’s efforts to deliver world-class health care.

“This testing will help providers at the VA prescribe the most appropriate medications at the right dose,” Wilkie said. “Our goal is take care of our nation’s veterans.”

Veterans will access the test at their local VA facility, Sanford Health will process the tests at its South Dakota-based Imagenetics facility, and the patient’s physician will receive the test results to help with their clinical decision making.

“We have seen firsthand how this testing can positively influence patient care,” said Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford Health. “Through the generosity of Mr. Sanford, we are proud to join the VA to make it available to our nation’s heroes.” 

“I spent eight years in the Air Reserves at the Minneapolis- St. Paul Air Reserve Station, which gave me a window into the incredible sacrifices made by our nation’s service members and their families,” said Denny Sanford. “I’ve invested in this unique partnership between Sanford Health and the VA as a tribute to those brave, selfless men and women.”

The Sanford Health Department of Veterans and Military Services, helps veterans and military personnel obtain health care services, navigate care and insurance coverage, identify wellness services and search for employment opportunities. It also offers family support services and veteran community outreach.

Sanford Imagenetics began in 2014 thanks to a $125 million gift from Denny Sanford. More than 90 percent of patients who have been tested have been found to carry a genetic change that could affect medication selection or dosing. Test results are shared with physicians through the electronic medical record to ensure efficiency and accuracy in choosing treatments.

The program also will eventually support genetic counseling for patients.

For information on PHASeR, go to