Molecular Counting and Liquid Biopsies: A Path to Creating Health Equity in the Genomic Revolution

Life at the Interface of Science and Engineering
Stephen Quake
Lee Otterson Professor of Applied Physics and Bioengineering
Stanford University and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub
Online via WebEx:
Fri, April 09, 2021 at 3:00 PM
Password to event is CBESeminar

There are many causes of health disparities, and one major contribution is lack of access to specialty care in underserved and rural areas.  I will argue that the development of liquid biopsies based on molecular counting technologies which take advantage of the genomic revolution are helping to level the playing field and reduce disparity.  Simple blood draws which can be performed anywhere and mailed to central testing laboratories are creating broad access to the fruits of the last decade’s advances in genomics and sequencing technologies.  In particular, many of these blood tests are creating health equity by replacing invasive biopsies which require the presence of skilled physicians.  To illustrate the breadth of this phenomenon, I will discuss tests we have developed in fields as diverse as maternal and fetal medicine, infectious disease, cancer, and organ transplantation.

Photo of Dr. Quake

Stephen Quake is the Lee Otterson Professor of Bioengineering and Professor of Applied Physics at Stanford University and is co-President of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. He received a B.S. in Physics and M.S. in Mathematics from Stanford University in 1991 and a doctorate in Theoretical Physics from the University of Oxford in 1994. Quake has invented many measurement tools for biology, including new DNA sequencing technologies that have enabled rapid analysis of the human genome and microfluidic automation that allows scientists to efficiently isolate individual cells and decipher their genetic code. Quake is also well known for inventing new diagnostic tools, including the first non-invasive prenatal test for Down syndrome and other aneuploidies. His test is rapidly replacing risky invasive approaches such as amniocentesis, and millions of women each year now benefit from this approach. His innovations have helped to radically accelerate the pace of biology and have made medicine safer by replacing invasive biopsies with simple blood tests.