Using Genomics to Prevail in Toxic Tort Litigation

Posted by on June 19, 2017

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
– Howard Jarvis quoting Benjamin Franklin

Over the past several decades, genomic science revolutionized the practice of criminal law and is now in the process of transforming civil law. While the use of genetic science in criminal law tended to focus on relatively narrow issues, the genetic revolution in civil law is likely to lead to far wider ranging implications, including causation, foreseeability, compensation, ethics and risk management. Specifically, genomic science will provide litigators with novel and powerful tools to help them prevail in toxic torts, food and drug litigation.

On May 24th, 2017, Innovative Science Solutions – together with ArrayXpress, the LSP Group, A2L Consulting, and Gnarus Advisors – hosted the 2nd Annual Genetics in Civil Law Conference in Washington, D.C. The two-day conference offered engaging sessions geared to a variety of stakeholders – including toxic tort and pharmaceutical and medical device litigators, insurance executives, risk managers, regulatory professionals, and academics – interested in understanding how the molecular science revolution is transforming civil litigation as well as the identification of important business opportunities and risks.

Toxico Genomica

At the conference, we announced the formation of ToxicoGenomica Partners help legal counsel identify and leverage genomic data to develop unique and innovative alternative cause strategies. ToxicoGenomica Partners is the only organization equipped to perform next generation genomic sequencing to reveal critical facts about your legal case as well as to interpret these data to formulate a novel and data-driven legal defense.

On the second day of the conference, Michael Zapata (Executive Chairman of ArrayXpress) unveiled the process used by ToxicoGenomica Partners to help its clients manage risk and generate a valuable return on investment using genomic defense strategies in specific toxic tort cases, such as benzene, asbestos, and radiation cases.

After covering basic concepts in genomics tailored for attorneys and industry (i.e. Genomics 101), Len van Zyl, PhD (CEO of ArrayXpress, geneticist, and next generation sequencing guru) delivered a series of enlightening lectures that described cutting edge research including how he has used genomic analyses to help counsel successfully defend difficult tort cases. Dr. van Zyl emphasized that although only 5-10% of all cancers are purely genetically “predestined,” we have developed a spectacular understanding of the underlying genetics of these cancers and that they are the very ones where a genomics defense can be the most promising and effective. He discussed the notion that idiopathic cancers are swiftly becoming a thing of the past and that we will soon be able to effectively describe the relative contributions of genomics and environment to most cancer.

David H. Schwartz, Ph.D. (founding partner of Innovative Science Solutions, LLC) talked about the vastly expanding universe of information science tools designed to maintain an awareness of the science relevant to a genetic defense. These tools include social listening platforms, artificial intelligence algorithms, enhanced scientific databases, and advanced tools designed to parse and analyze the science related to litigation.

John Sullivan, MD, an experienced toxicologist, who also testifies in cases, provided perspectives working together with genomics experts and counsel to successfully defend toxic tort cases. Sullivan emphasized that genomics can be confusing to jurors and therefore it is key to simplify messages and tell stories that resonate and can be understood by lay people.

Kirk T. Hartley, Esq. moderated the proceeding providing valuable insights about new advances in genomic technologies as they apply to the medical and legal communities.

The conference was a truly multidisciplinary event featuring speakers from government (NIOSH, EPA), academia (Arizona State University, Baylor, George Washington), consulting firms (ISS, A2L, Gnarus Advisors, LSP Group), a genomics next generation sequencing firm (ArrayXpress), a big data software company (Praedicat), major industry thought leaders (GE), and a variety of legal firms (Woolf McClane, Herrick, Reed Smith, Adams & Reese, Williams & Connolly).

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