Heather Baird Tomlinson

Heather Baird Tomlinson


Heather Baird Tomlinson, PhD
Director, Clinical Diagnostics Strategic Business Unit
Website: www.promega.com

Heather Baird Tomlinson is the Director of Global Clinical Diagnostics Strategic Business Unit at Promega Corporation bringing with her over a decade of experience in the clinical diagnostics market. Heather is responsible for the clinical market segment at Promega, effectively leading the team that drives the strategy. Prior to this position, she was Promega’s East Regional Sales Manager in the North America Branch.

Prior to joining Promega, Heather was a Senior Manager and Scientist at Diagnostics Hybrids in Cleveland, OH., contributing her leadership, scientific, and business expertise to facilitate the growth of this international company by providing FDA-approved cell cultures and molecular diagnostic assays to clinical diagnostics and hospital laboratories. She has earned multiple awards for business innovation. Heather received her PhD in Pharmacology from Case Western University, and her BS in Biochemistry from Ohio University.

Microsatellite Instability has become an increasingly relevant tool in genetic and immuno-oncology research. Deficiencies in DNA mismatch repair (dMMR) can be caused by hereditary, germ line mutations or hypermethylation. Either mechanism disrupts expression of functional MMR proteins, allowing replication errors to accumulate across the genome. Global genomic mutations disrupt normal cellular function and can lead to unchecked growth and cancers, but also produces novel proteins. These “foreign” proteins can be immunogenic, recruiting immune effector cells to that tissue. Mononucleotide repeat microsatellite sequences are particularly sensitive to replication errors (mutation) and can be the first evidence of an MMR deficiency.

Title of the talk: Microsatellite Instability (MSI) –Biomarker for Immunotherapy

This talk focuses on microsatellite instability, and its functional capability for detecting DNA mismatch-repair deficiency which has been described as a predictive biomarker in an immuno-oncology research setting. The MSI biomarker has risen in importance following the recent FDA drug approval decision based in part on the use of laboratory developed MSI tests as an indicator of response to immune therapeutic drug treatment. The MSI-H/dMMR indication for an immune checkpoint blockade drug marked the first time the FDA approved a drug based on a molecular signature in cancers found in different parts of the body, rather than in the organ where the cancer originated.