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The State of Genomic Medicines: Q&A with Demaris Mills


Mills is working in leadership in two roles, one of which puts her on the forefront of the genomic medicine movement.

Demaris Mills

Demaris Mills
Vice president and group
executive of genomic medicines

Demaris Mills is serving as both president of Integrated DNA Technologies and vice president and group executive of genomic medicines at Danaher. She recently spoke with Pharmaceutical Executive about the state of genomic medicine and how she’s balancing both roles at the same time.

Pharmaceutical Executive: What is the current state of genomic medicines?
Demaris Mills: We have unlocked an exciting chapter in genomic medicine—one that has transformed healthcare as we know it—with the FDA’s landmark approval of the first commercially available CRISPR-based gene therapy for the treatment of sickle cell disease late last year. With more promising treatments in the pipeline, we’ve now hit a turning point in how medicine is practiced, ultimately to cure diseases that were once considered incurable.

All of this has been accomplished in a little over a decade since the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 system. That’s remarkable progress in a short period of time. The field continues to rapidly advance, with more cutting-edge gene editing technologies that have the potential to be safer and more efficacious, which will enable the treatment of a wider range of diseases. It’s an exciting time to be part of this important work, which holds the power to extend beyond medicine and fuel a new genetic revolution.

PE: How are you working to solve the challenges facing development and manufacturing?
Mills: While we see the promise of genomic medicine, operationalizing it remains a significant challenge, with hurdles across every dimension: scientific, manufacturing, regulatory, as well as the associated cost burden. One way Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) is helping to address development and manufacturing challenges is by adding additional manufacturing capacity to an already capacity-constrained market for Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP)/Q7 services. In Q4 2023, IDT opened its cGMP oligonucleotide therapeutics facility to support the increased demand for high-quality cell and gene therapy components that are foundational to delivering on the promise of therapies to patients, and are key to accelerating the path to clinic for developers.

IDT’s research and development teams also have been at the forefront of CRISPR innovation, and have developed multiple proprietary CRISPR reagents and enzymes. Through groundbreaking research and collaborations with scientists around the globe, IDT scientists have published more than 200 scientific journals as peer-reviewed articles, and are helping to shape the future of genomics and biotechnology. As we evolve with the industry, we remain committed to optimizing our gene writing and editing portfolio with first-to-market research products and solutions to meet the needs of customers.

PE: What are your goals in your new role at Danaher?
Mills: As Danaher’s new Vice President and Group Executive for the Genomic Medicines Group, I’m driven by its mission to accelerate the real-life impact of tomorrow’s science and technology. It’s the role we know we need to play in the world: innovation at the speed of life. In fact, Danaher is uniquely positioned to tackle the barriers preventing efficient delivery of treatments to the market and patients. Efficacy, safety, scalability and speed—these are some of the major issues our customers face every day. With Danaher’s wide range of gold-standard and best-of-breed technologies, we can help solve the challenges our customers face by helping to deliver a comprehensive end-to-end workflow solution that will accelerate their path to the clinic. My goals will be to drive strategy to action by expanding the Genomic Medicine Group’s capabilities and assets, accelerate strategic partnerships, and build high-value workflow solutions that address our customers’ biggest paint points.

PE: How will your new role coordinate with your role at IDT?
Mills: As I take the helm at both levels, leading the Genomic Medicines Group for Danaher while maintaining my seat as president of IDT, I look forward to leveraging the synergies both the operating company and group can provide, to achieve our common goal of accelerating the impact we’re making in genomic medicine, and the patients that are at the center of what we do. This type of coordination is already happening, as reflected in the Danaher-Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) Beacon for CRISPR Cures that launched earlier this year. The collaboration brings together the power of many Danaher operating companies, including IDT, along with the IGI to develop gene-editing therapies for rare and other diseases, with the goal of creating a new model for future development for a wide range of genomic medicines. In this extended capacity, I’ll continue to leverage the power that both IDT and the Danaher Genomic Medicines Group can provide to create greater value, accelerate speed to market, and deliver differentiated solutions and capabilities to customers.

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