From 1949 when F. William Sunderman began his Proficiency Testing Service to completion of the first human genome sequence in 2003, signal discoveries and transformational advances have pervaded the clinical laboratory field. AACC’s Annual Scientific Meetings have chronicled these accomplishments over the last seven decades. A special session on July 30 at the 70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Chicago will celebrate these milestones, featuring notable technology advancements and accomplishments in laboratory medicine over the last century. This scientific session, (32413) AACC goes Platinum: 70 years of the AACC National Meeting, will also look forward, projecting what the industry may accomplish by the 100th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting in 2048.

The session’s two co-presenters, Larry Kricka, DPhil, emeritus professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Robert Rej, PhD, director of clinical chemistry and hematology at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center, have each written extensive histories about the field of clinical chemistry.

“The past 70 years have seen the clinical laboratory transform from a small laboratory with few staff, performing a very limited menu of manual tests, into a large highly automated high-test volume operation providing a diverse and extensive menu of clinical tests,” said Kricka, who chronicled the history of clinical chemistry in a 2011 review article with John Savory, PhD.

Kricka’s talk will cover nearly 100 years of laboratory medicine, from 1949 to 2048. Rej, who wrote about scientific milestones published in Clinical Chemistry, will walk attendees through the history of AACC’s Annual Scientific Meeting. “Dr. Kricka is the futurist. I’m doing the retrospective part to trace that progress—it will be up to him to connect the dots and forecast,” Rej told CLN Stat.

In reviewing the first decade of AACC Annual Scientific Meetings, Rej noticed that the word “automation” almost never received a mention in papers or abstracts. This subject got more and more attention from the late 1950s to early 1970s, then fell off as it became taken for granted. Nearly all other breakthroughs—enzyme assays, nucleic acid-based methods, etc.—seem to follow that curve: little or no visibility followed by a burst of activity, followed by acceptance, he observed. Rej plans to cover each decade’s distinct focus on scientific innovation.

A number of factors have contributed to the industry’s transformation: development and validation of new clinical tests; introduction of technologies designed to facilitate high volume; rapid, accurate, and precise testing (e.g., mechanization, automation, computing, informatics); and new analytical technologies such as nanotechnology, microtechnology, genomics, immunoassay, and sequencing, Kricka summarized. Clinical labs have also had to respond to disruptive factors and provide testing in support of specific medical needs. Examples include blood gas testing, infectious disease testing, therapeutic drug testing and point-of-care testing (POCT), he said.

While it’s difficult to predict how clinical labs will look in 2048, Kricka anticipates that the industry will see further consolidation of laboratories, including large supraregional tertiary centers, and an increasing role for static and mobile robots. “Outside of clinical laboratories, predictions point to a significant role for wearables (e.g., patches, contact lenses) and mobile health (e.g., the smartphone or tablet as the hub of medicine and checkups by cellphone),” he said. The exploitation of artificial intelligence—conversational platforms, telepresence, augmented reality, computer-aided diagnosis, digital twins—is another trend that may have a transformative effect on the practice of laboratory medicine, Kricka said.

Rej believes that implantable sensors will eventually replace POCT that involves frequent monitoring. “A great deal of progress has been made with glucose monitoring that will only continue going forward,” he said. Quoting science fiction writer William Ford Gibson, Rej offered that “the future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” Somewhere in a poster, exhibit, or symposium at the 70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo, the next big thing may already be out there.

This first-of-a-kind session will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and is worth 1.5 CE hours. Here’s a chance to find out about clinical laboratory medicine’s rich history and future projections. Register now for the 70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo July 29–August 2 in Chicago.