Each day, DNA samples from around the world are screened and tested at New Mexico State University in the Clinical Testing Laboratory in the Arrowhead Research Park.
The lab, a division of the General Genetics Corporation in partnership with NMSU, focuses on two tests: one to determine a person's genetic predisposition for certain health disorders and another to predict the body's ability to process the clot-preventative medication Plavix.
"The predisposition testing done here tests for 25 conditions, including Alzheimers, cancer and heart conditions," said laboratory manager Dan Slowinski. "The Plavix screening can predict how the medication can help or not help depending on your DNA makeup."
Physicians send patient samples to CTL for testing; DNA analysts in the lab test these samples and return the results in two or three days.
Recently, CTL started validating a genetic screening test for colorblindness through a partnership with Genevolve Vision Diagnostics Inc., an Albuquerque-based company that developed the first-ever genetic test for color vision deficiency. The company has formulated a cure for colorblindness through gene therapy that already has been successfully tested on primates. CTL will begin providing DNS testing for color vision once the test is validated within the lab.
"It's an exciting opportunity to have partnered with Genevolve," Slowinski said.
CTL employs scientists and scholars from around the country, including NMSU alumni and NMSU graduate students who intern in the testing lab. Undergraduate students work part-time in the lab's office, helping with day-to-day operations from archiving to labeling.
"As of right now, I haven't decided on a major for school, but working part-time for CTL has sparked an interest in being a lab analyst," said Dona Ana Community College freshman Ruby Rivera.
"CTL is an independent, self-sustaining entity," General Manager Stefan Long said. "The mission we had in mind when starting up was to offer job opportunities to graduating students."
The CTL opened in 2009. Along with the Forensics Testing Laboratory, Genetic Testing Laboratory and Althea drug toxicology laboratory, CTL is part of a group of DNA and forensic testing businesses spun off from NMSU.