Sunday, October 19, 2008

Using Data in the 21st Century

The “Wisconsin Genomics Initiative” was recently formed with four leading institutions to advance personalized healthcare in the state. The collaboration includes Marshfield Clinic, Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH), and the University Wisconsin-Milwaukee UWM).

The public private partnership is the result of a challenge issued by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle in 2006 at the groundbreaking for the Marshfield Clinic’s Laird Center for Medical Research. At that time, he challenged the four institutions to combine and leverage resources to create a Wisconsin Medical Research Triangle. The “Wisconsin Genomics Initiative” is the first project resulting from that challenge.

The Initiative is supported by the Federal government, the state, by the partnering institutions and will develop scientific models to:

  • Predict with high accuracy individual susceptibility to disease
  • Precisely target personalized treatments
  • Determine how well each person will respond to specific treatments
  • Prevent disease before it occurs

Marshfield Clinic will greatly contribute to the project as the Clinic is home to the Personalized Medicine Research Project, the largest population-based genetic research project in the country. Approximately 20,000 people have contributed their DNA and given researchers access to their complete electronic health records.

Initial work will involve genotyping each DNA sample in Marshfield Clinic’s bio-bank for one million genetic markers using the Clinic’s electronic medical health record to obtain health history and environmental factors for targeted diseases. The researchers will then build and test a scientific computational model capable of predicting an individual’s disease susceptibility and treatment response.

The other partners such as the Medical College of Wisconsin will effectively genotype individual DNA samples, UW-Milwaukee will be doing research in urban healthcare and health informatics, and UWSMPH will provide the full bio-statistical analysis of the vast data collected.

In addition, UWSMPH with funding of $41 million over five years is going to establish the “Institute for Clinical and Translational Research” (ICTR). The Institute was created in response to the NIH “Roadmap for Medical Research” to aggressively address clinical and translational research in Wisconsin and to use this research information to provide better care in real life.

“Scientists have shown that taking an aspirin a day can reduce a person’s risk of heart attacks, yet only about 60 percent of the people who could benefit use aspirin,” reported ICTR’s Director Marc Drezner, Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “Many complicated factors contribute to this breakdown in the translation of fundamental knowledge, and we have set up an expansive plan and structure to eliminate the problem.”

When the infrastructure is in place, the ICTR will expand training programs and coordinate and array of resources and services for both new and established investigators. ICTR will build a core group of biostatisticians and medical informatics experts to aid in study design, data analysis, and management. According to UW-Madison Chancellor John D. Wiley, “the opening of our Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and Interdisciplinary Research Complex in the near future will further enhance our capabilities”.