Governor Wolf Announces New East Coast Nihon Kohden America Facility in Lehigh County, Creation of New Jobs

first_img SHARE Email Facebook Twitter Economy,  Jobs That Pay Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today that Nihon Kohden America, Inc., a manufacturer, developer, and distributor of medical electronic equipment, will establish a new facility in Allentown, Lehigh County, and create at least 27 new, high-paying jobs.“Nihon Kohden America’s decision to establish its East Coast facility in Allentown is great news for Pennsylvania,” Governor Wolf said. “The commonwealth’s strategic location makes it a prime spot for businesses to expand and support their growing customer base.”Nihon Kohden America will expand operations and establish a 7,000-square-foot facility in Allentown, South Whitehall Township to provide technical and product support to key installations along the East Coast, and support biomedical training classes for consumers.The company plans to invest at least $445,000 on the project, which will include tenant improvements, the purchase of equipment, and training for new employees. Nihon Kohden America has also committed to creating 27 new, full-time jobs and the retention of 11 current positions over the next three years.“We are always looking for ways to improve the level and quality of service and support we provide to our customers because we know that every minute counts when it comes to patient care,” said Dr. Wilson P. Constantine, CEO of Nihon Kohden America. “Initially our new Allentown facility will serve as a second U.S. technical support call center, increasing access to our knowledgeable support staff; and in the future we will have the ability to add other functions as customer needs dictate.”Nihon Kohden America received a funding proposal from the Department of Community and Economic Development that includes $81,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits, a $75,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant, and $22,950 in WEDnetPA funding for employee training.The project was coordinated by the Governor’s Action Team, an experienced group of economic development professionals who report directly to the governor and work with businesses that are considering locating or expanding in Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.Founded in Japan in 1951, Nihon Kohden is the leading manufacturer, developer, and distributor of medical electronic equipment, with subsidiaries in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The company’s products are now used in more than 120 countries, and it is the largest supplier of electroencephalography products worldwide. A pioneer in transformational healthcare technology, Nihon Kohden has envisioned, designed and produced revolutionary devices, such as pulse oximeters, arrhythmia analysis, low-invasive blood volume monitoring and wireless patient monitoring. In the U.S., the company is a trusted source for patient monitoring, sleep assessment, neurology and cardiology instrumentation solutions, and has been recognized by MD Buyline for the highest customer satisfaction among U.S. hospitals and health systems for 36 consecutive quarters. The company’s newest facility will complement its west coast-based facility allowing for a rapid response to customers across all U.S. time zones.For more information about Nihon Kohden, visit and www.nkusa.comFor more information about the Governor’s Action Team or DCED visit Governor Tom Wolf on Facebook: February 11, 2016center_img Governor Wolf Announces New East Coast Nihon Kohden America Facility in Lehigh County, Creation of New Jobslast_img read more

Feature Peering into my genome

first_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Email Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe When it comes to two of the genes on the panel, BRCA1 and BRCA2, there’s little doubt that in cancer-prone families, testing saves lives: Extensive study of BRCA carriers has found that those who have their ovaries removed are 80% less likely to die from ovarian cancer and 50% less likely to die from breast cancer. Prophylactic mastectomy appears to cut risk of breast cancer by at least 95%.But many other genes for which testing was discouraged just a few years back because their impact on health was uncertain are “now being routinely offered,” says Kenneth Offit, chief of the clinical genetics service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “This is the paradox we’ve fallen into.” Just as more cancer risk genes were being uncovered, the cost of sequencing them plunged. The result is a proliferation of panels designed to decipher DNA. How much each of these genes raises risk in individuals, and at what age, is often fuzzy. “The clinical work got out ahead of us,” says Fergus Couch, an authority on BRCA and other breast cancer genes at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “The [sequencing] technology changed so quickly” that “we did not have time” to develop answers to the questions patients and doctors are now asking.In the summer of 2013, GeneDx launched its Breast/Ovarian Cancer Panel—spurred partly by the Supreme Court ruling against the Myriad Genetics patent claims on the BRCA genes. Other companies, including Myriad itself and Ambry Genetics, along with academic medical centers, have jumped in with panels of dozens of genes linked to an array of cancers. “We’re really looking at things that will provide the physician with the ability to make a treatment plan,” for example, by adding increased surveillance, says Sherri Bale, managing director of GeneDx. The genes on the company’s panels are “a moving target,” she says, with culprits added and sometimes deleted based on the available scientific evidence. Bale believes the panels, which cost in the neighborhood of two or three thousand dollars, are suitable for high-risk families but not yet for the general population.THE LIST OF 21 GENES sits between us, and I consider all I could learn by simply saying yes. The counselor isn’t advocating I sign up for the full panel. But she draws my attention to one gene in the moderate-risk purple grouping, CHEK2. The list of cancers beside it is long: “Female Breast, Male Breast, Colon, Prostate, Thyroid, Renal, Endometrial (serous), Ovarian.” I’m vaguely familiar with CHEK2 as a breast cancer gene from my own reporting. “Is CHEK2 more common in Ashkenazis?” I ask, still stuck on heritage as my cancer driver and the reason I’m in this room to begin with.“No,” the counselor replies. But in addition to prostate, my paternal grandfather had colon cancer. “He was in his 70s!” I protest. Nonetheless, CHEK2 testing for me is worth considering, the counselor says. A CHEK2 mutation could roughly double my risk of breast cancer, to at least 20%. Annual breast MRIs and mammograms would likely be recommended.I’m stymied. Adding another gene for testing had never occurred to me. And yet, if the test is positive, the course of action sounds relatively benign and potentially lifesaving.“Let’s do it,” I say. We’ve been talking for about 40 minutes.The counselor pulls out a consent form. “There’s one more thing,” she explains. A block of text is titled “Variant of uncertain significance (VUS).” It reads, in part: “I may learn that a VUS was identified by this test. This means that a genetic change (variant) was identified, but it is unknown whether the variant may cause cancer.” A given cancer gene can have thousands of variants, some showing up in just a handful of families worldwide. Certain variants are a major contributor to disease, whereas others are benign changes in DNA that, practically speaking, mean nothing.Again, my years of medical journalism have failed to prepare me. “How common are these in BRCA and CHEK2?” I demand. For BRCA1 and BRCA2, the counselor explains, about 2% of people have a VUS. (I later learn that VUS rates fluctuate depending on the company offering the test.) She is not sure about CHEK2 but is happy to find out. She stresses, too, that finding a VUS would not affect medical guidance and that the hospital will recontact me if a VUS is later reclassified as either harmless or pathogenic. Several of the authors, among them Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington, Seattle, BRCA1’s discoverer, say all women regardless of family history should learn whether they carry dangerous mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. Other experts are not yet convinced. Perhaps even more contentious is whom to screen for dozens of risk genes uncovered in the past decade, some only tenuously linked to cancer. I might have written a nuanced Science story laying out both sides of the debate. But when it came to my own health, 486 Israeli women with BRCA mutations, half without a family history but all highly vulnerable to cancer, was all I needed.Time seemed of the essence. I am 38 years old; ovary removal in BRCA carriers is recommended by 40. I called the suburban Philadelphia hospital where my children, now 2 and 5 years old, were born and spoke with a genetic counselor. She took a family history and agreed that yes, BRCA testing was worthwhile, and yes, insurance would likely cover it in my case.I booked an appointment. I was about to experience my own sliver of the brave new world of cancer genetic testing, which would take me beyond BRCA and into more uncertain terrain.THE AUTOMATIC DOORS SWISH soundlessly open as I step into the hospital’s cancer center. A genetic counselor with brown, curly hair and glasses approaches me, smiling, clipboard in hand. In her office, she pulls out a pedigree of my family sketched in pencil—squares for males, circles for females, diagonal slashes through anyone who has died with the cause of death jotted next to them. I thought I’d come prepared—after all, I’m here only for BRCA testing, and only because of my ancestry—but it turns out I haven’t. Did my grandmother’s hysterectomy include removal of her ovaries? (I hazard a guess and query family members after the fact; none knows whether I got it right.) Did my great-grandmother die of stomach or colon cancer? “She was in her 90s,” I say. I still carry a dim memory of visiting her in the hospital, as a 3-year-old, shortly before she died. “Does it matter when someone is that old?”The counselor pulls out a sheet of paper and lays it on the table. It’s a list of 21 genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer. Eleven are shaded pink and labeled “high-risk”; three are in the purple “moderate-risk” category; and seven others are turquoise and described, obliquely, as “newer genes.” This is the Breast/Ovarian Cancer Panel from the company GeneDx in Gaithersburg, Maryland, but as is often the case in oncology, many of the genes contribute to other cancers, too. One confers a 40% to 83% risk of stomach cancer. Stomach removal is recommended if you test positive. Another, TP53, confers a nearly 100% chance of cancer in women and a 73% chance in men; TP53 cancers include brain cancers and sarcomas. Rarely could I be described in a headline in The New York Times, which explains why I lingered over one earlier this fall. “Study of Jewish Women Shows Link to Cancer Without Family History,” announced the 5 September story. Uneasily, I read on: “Women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent who tested positive for cancer-causing genetic mutations during random screenings have high rates of breast and ovarian cancer even when they have no family history of the disease, researchers reported Thursday.”Hmmm.Science has been my professional home for the past 13 years, and in that time I’ve written extensively about genetic testing and spoken with dozens of experts at the field’s cutting edge. I’ve chronicled the scientific advances, the ethical quandaries, the lives testing saves, the angst it ignites. I had never turned the lens on my own DNA. Abruptly, there was no escaping it. My parents are both of Ashkenazi descent. To my knowledge, no one on either side of my family has ever had breast or ovarian cancer. But suddenly I saw how a mutation in the genes discussed in that article, BRCA1 and BRCA2, might have slipped unnoticed through my father’s small family, heavy on the Y chromosome—through him; his older brother; my three cousins, two of whom are male. I remembered that my paternal grandfather had suffered from prostate cancer, which eventually spread to his bones and killed him. My uncle had the disease, too. Along with their storied role in breast and ovarian cancers, BRCA mutations are associated with prostate cancer in men. I’d long known that Ashkenazi Jews are more likely to carry mutations in those genes. But that was as far as my knowledge went.When I probed the numbers, they were not particularly reassuring. A quick Google search—why had I never done this before?—revealed that one in 40 Ashkenazis carry BRCA mutations, compared with as few as one in 800 in the general population. Like nearly all genes linked to cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 were first found in families riddled with the disease. But the September study, led by Ephrat Levy-Lahad, a medical geneticist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, argued that other families shared a similarly high risk if they carried the same mutations. I push aside my hesitation, sign the forms, and am off to the lab for a blood draw.Driving home, my intolerance for uncertainty rears its head. Do I really want to know if I have a VUS? What’s the point? That afternoon, I send the counselor an e-mail. I tell her I’m worried that learning about VUSs “will cause me anxiety and there will be no benefit to having this information. I’m wondering whether it’s possible not to receive information about any VUS that may turn up in testing. … Is this an option?”She writes back quickly and kindly. She has checked with GeneDx and learned that, for regulatory reasons, they are obligated to share information if a VUS is found. She will ask her medical director whether the hospital can keep a VUS finding from me. But she wonders, too, whether “you will feel anxious not knowing whether or not you may be recontacted in the future regarding a reclassified VUS. … Chances are you will not have a VUS and then you may feel relief to know you do not have one.”Later, she writes to say that her medical director is comfortable withholding a VUS if no pathogenic variants turn up. And there’s more good news: She has learned that the VUS rate for CHEK2, per GeneDx, is only 1.6%, far lower than she originally thought—although estimates vary depending on whom you ask. I shelve my inner dialogue over which information I want.TWO DAYS LATER, while GeneDx is parsing my DNA, I’m on the phone with Susan Domchek, an oncologist studying breast cancer genes at the University of Pennsylvania. We are discussing cancer risk genes in people without a family history of disease. Unprompted, Domchek brings up CHEK2 testing. “We don’t know how to incorporate it into patient care,” she complains, referring to women who test positive and their families. “What percentage of the time does it really add anything to the situation?” I don’t mention that my own CHEK2 test is in process. Instead, I inquire about the frequency of CHEK2 mutations in the general population. Domchek’s response that only about one in 200 people in the United States is a carrier helps me exhale.Domchek is one of many researchers trying to illuminate the interplay between cancer genes and disease. Along with Offit, Couch, and others, she has developed an online registry called PROMPT that opened earlier this fall. It aims to register thousands of people who have had the panel testing offered by a host of companies, including GeneDx, Ambry, Myriad, Quest Diagnostics, and Pathway Genomics. Their goal is a database that will help them examine how specific gene variants affect health.“We need to get the world’s experience with all these panels,” Couch says. He also points out an irony: Despite some uneasiness, scientists like him need panel testing to continue, because it’s their best shot to gather enough data to tackle research questions. At the same time, “You don’t want to do science … at the cost of the patient,” he says. Couch is part of an international consortium called ENIGMA that’s working to sequence breast cancer genes from 40,000 cancer patients and healthy people.  The project will nail down the risk conferred by different mutations, and study the impact of VUSs on disease.Outside the United States, panels of cancer genes are largely restricted to research settings, and investigators often don’t share information about mutations that carry a modest or unknown risk. There’s much debate over what to tell volunteers. “We struggle with it,” says Hans Ehrencrona, a clinical geneticist at Lund University Hospital in Sweden. “Where to draw that line, no one knows for sure.”Every woman in Sweden who receives BRCA testing is now also offered the chance to sign up for a study in which she’s tested for 63 other cancer genes. Results from only seven of those are shared with the participants. Many moderate-risk genes are not on the list, says Ehrencrona, who’s helping lead the effort. As an example, he points out, “CHEK2 is quite common in Sweden. We do not return it.”ONE TUESDAY MORNING IN OCTOBER, minutes after a work conference call ends, my phone rings. “I have your results,” the counselor announces. It’s been 19 days since I met with her. “What do you want to know?”Well, the pathogenic mutations, of course, I say.There’s great news, she tells me: No pathogenic mutations were detected in any of the three genes.Relief rushes through me. “Do you want to know about any VUS?” she asks. I think about CHEK2, and the 1.6% VUS rate she quoted. What are the chances? “Sure,” I say.“There were no variants of unknown significance detected in BRCA, but a variant of unknown significance was detected in CHEK2,” she tells me. Reading from the GeneDx report, she explains that my VUS is a deletion of 15 DNA nucleotides. The variant has been found in two men with prostate cancer, and in vitro analysis suggests it causes a partial loss of function of the gene.I expected distress, a ringing in my ears, fear coiling in the pit of my stomach. Instead, I’m almost laughing. I think, “That’s it? That’s what’s being shared with patients these days?” Two men with prostate cancer, cells in a petri dish, a loss of function that may or may not translate into pathogenicity: This does not merit my mental energy.“People need to become more comfortable with uncertainty,” Sharon Plon, a clinical geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, tells me a few days later. But she stresses that acknowledging uncertainty “does not mean that we don’t know anything.” For many families with cancer, large panels provide constructive guidance.I write to my cousin in San Francisco to share my test results; she is the only close female relative on my father’s side, where the cancer cases cluster. And she’s more familiar than most with the panels: Her mother, my nonbiological aunt, is fighting ovarian cancer and signed up for a panel of 41 genes offered by the University of Washington, Seattle. She tested negative for all of them.My cousin had urged me to consider the same panel, which has now expanded to 48 genes. In the end, I explain in my message to her, it wasn’t something I wanted. “I know the panels are often discouraged,” she writes back. It’s a view she doesn’t share. Even without a clear-cut action plan, she wants to know whatever message her DNA carries for her future. The only reason she’s eschewed testing for herself is because insurance is unlikely to pay for it. “Knowledge is power,” she writes. “I don’t see any downside at all.”last_img read more