As any good toxic tort litigator knows, it is not enough for a defendant to demonstrate that the alleged harmful chemical was not the cause of the injury. Rather, an effective defense provides the jury with a reasonable explanation as to what the cause of the injury was.
As any good toxic tort litigator knows, it is not enough for a defendant to demonstrate that the alleged harmful chemical was not the cause of the injury. Rather, an effective defense provides the jury with a reasonable explanation as to what the cause of the injury was. Genomic data offer the defense just such an opportunity. The National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council describes toxicogenomics as one of the most discriminating, predictive, and sensitive tools available to evaluate toxic exposure and to predict effects on human health.
Next generation sequencing (NGS) is the most powerful technology currently available in the toxicogenomics toolkit. Genomic technologies have provided a nearly binary answer to many legal questions including the assessment of paternity (or the owner of DNA at a crime scene). Unlike the inferences from epidemiological data that are based on associations found in the general population, validated genetic signatures go one step further. They use well characterized associations to provide an answer specific to the individual. In addition, genetic data in toxic tort claims provide analytical and quantitative data.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of genomic data that can be developed to provide evidence that the injury was “in the genes”:
Based on well-established scientific evidence linking a specific toxicant to a specific disease, in many instances, genetic data can provide evidence that: (i) the individual was or was not actually exposed to the toxicant, and (ii) that the individual’s disease was or was not caused by the claimed exposure.
Working with counsel, an appropriate NGS laboratory can determine if there is an appropriate study that can be designed to query the specific mechanism of action (MOA) as well as disease states presented in a specific toxic tort or pharmaceutical claim. Utilizing a suite of genomics tools and specialized software, NGS laboratories analyze the relevant tissue samples available and generate the appropriate information (DNA sequence, mRNA expression, epigenetic gene regulation, and spontaneous or inherited gene mutations). This information is carefully analyzed and interpreted based on the most current scientific and medical literature and will guide counsel as to whether there is scientific evidence to support or refute the exposure and disease causation claims. Depending on the experimental design, the results can also indicate if there is scientific evidence to support or refute familial genetic predisposition to the disease.
Using GenomicsTo Defend Your Next Case or Controversy
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See presentations on the effective use of genomic technologies in toxic tort litigation by members of our alliance.
On Wednesday July 8, 2020, Dr. David Schwartz of Innovative Science Solutions presented at the IADC 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting on a panel titled The Use of Genetic Testing in the Courtroom. A complimentary copy of the panel presentation is now available for download. Read more
Dr. David Schwartz of Innovative Science Solutions will be presenting at the IADC 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting on a panel titled The Use of Genetic Testing in the Courtroom. Read more
Plaintiff experts having been asserting for decades that all mesotheliomas must be linked to some asbestos exposure. Indeed, this has led to the erroneous (but widespread) view that mesothelioma is a signature disease, only caused by asbestos exposure. Read more
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