Cedars-Sinai Launches Precision Health
Jennifer Van Eyk, PhD, co-director of Cedars-Sinai Precision Health, director of Basic Science Research in the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center and director of the Advanced Clinical Biosystems Institute, speaks at the launch of Precision Health.
Newly Funded Precision Health Studies
Eight faculty members were announced Sept. 16 as recipients of Cedars-Sinai Precision Health funding for their research projects:
Cedars-Sinai Precision Health made its debut last week, offering a compelling preview of a new world of medicine in which advanced data on an individual’s genes, proteins and even digestive processes would drive personalized healthcare for patients.
Before a standing-room-only audience of industry representatives, scientists, physicians and other Cedars-Sinai staff in Harvey Morse Auditorium, the launch featured inspirational speeches, plus a new video and posters illustrating new research projects on a range of human ills.
The program is a partnership among scientists, clinicians and industry. Its stated purpose is "to drive the development of the newest technology and best research, coupled to the finest clinical practice, to rapidly deliver precise and personalized healthcare solutions."
Cedars-Sinai Precision Health is “really going to fundamentally change the way that we practice medicine," Dermot McGovern, MD, PhD, FRCP (LON), the program's director, says in a video that was played at the launch and posted on the new Cedars-Sinai Precision Health website.
Instead of grouping patients by disease, "we're going to think about people as individuals, based on more a molecular profile," to enhance prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, says McGovern, who also is professor of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and director of Translational Medicine at the F. Widjaja Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute.
To advance the program's goals, Cedars-Sinai announced it will fund eight new studies by its scientists on cancer, heart disease, childhood development and other subjects. The projects were culled from 39 submissions.
"All these projects were just amazing," said Jennifer Van Eyk, PhD, co-director of Cedars-Sinai Precision Health, director of Basic Science Research in the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center and director of the Advanced Clinical Biosystems Institute. "It was very difficult to choose."
Also at the launch event, two invited medical leaders surveyed the road ahead for precision health, also known as precision medicine, and the potential roadblocks.
Rob Knight, PhD, professor of Pediatrics and Computer Science and Engineering at University of California, San Diego, focused on the microbiome, the ever-changing community of microorganisms that live in association with the human body. Numbering in the trillions, the microorganisms' cells actually outnumber the body's human cells. They are believed to be key drivers of human health.
Knight sees a future in which, by blowing on a bathroom mirror, people might generate readouts of their individual disease states, based on their microbiome at the moment. They then could take appropriate action. Although much work remains to make that vision a reality, Knight is assembling the data because "where there is data, there is hope."
Lon Cardon, senior vice president of alternative discovery and development at GlaxoSmithKline, a global healthcare company based in Britain, outlined obstacles to translating discoveries into effective drug therapies. About half the time, promising pharmaceuticals fail to work in late-stage clinical trials, after extensive investment, he said.
Early successes have been achieved in using genetic data to create better drugs for cancer and certain rare diseases. But genetics thwarts easy analysis and clinical application, Cardon said. He called for private-public collaboration to move forward.
"No single entity has all the skills to fully exploit the big data information for the next generation of medicines," Cardon said. "It's going to be the partnerships that make that happen."
Clive Svendsen, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute and professor of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, closed the session by describing how his team uses a patient's own stem cells to grow tissues in the lab. Using this "organ on a chip," scientists can test potential drug therapies.
The ultimate goal? "We want to generate the right treatment for the right patient at the right time," Svendsen said.