Monday, November 28, 2011

Efforts to Study Genomic Medicine

In November, the New York Genome Center (NYGC) was established with $125 million from the City of New York as well as funds from private companies and foundations. NYGC’s eleven leading academic medical centers and research universities include Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Columbia University, Cornell University/Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, NYU School of Medicine, North Shore-LIJ Health System, the Jackson Laboratory, the Rockefeller University, and Stony Brook University. The Hospital for Special Surgery is an associate founding member.

Genomics are already a significant growth factor in the economy representing a $7 billion plus industry. NYGC will leverage existing strengths in genomics and attract new talent to create a hub where companies can develop applications for research. By 2025, the economic impact associated with commercial spin-off activities of NYGC is expected to represent the largest component of the total impact associated with the Center.

In another ongoing project, the “Electronic Medical Records and Genomics” network or referred to as eMERGE, received $25 million over the next four years to demonstrate that patients genomic information linked to disease characteristics and symptoms in their EMRs could improve care. eMERGE operates as a consortium with more than 120 members with grants from NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) plus additional funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

The original eMERGE program started several years ago and in July wrapped up the first phase of the program. It was demonstrated that disease characteristics data contained in EMRs along with patient’s genetic information can be used in large genetic studies. So far, the eMERGE network has identified genetic variants associated with dementia, cataracts, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, peripheral arterial disease, white blood cell count, type 2 diabetes and cardiac conduction defects.

In the next phase, researchers will identify genetic variants associated with 40 more disease characteristics and symptoms, using genome-wide association studies across the entire eMERGE network. DNA from about 32,000 participants will be analyzed in each study.

eMERGE network members in this phase include Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Group Health Cooperative and University of Washington, Northwestern University, Geisinger Weis Center for Research, Essentia Institute of Rural Health, Mayo Clinic, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The eMERGE Network Phase II Pediatric Study was announced last summer. The funding will support existing pediatric biorepositories with EMRs and genome-wide genotyping data to incorporate state-of-the-art methods generated in eMERGE Phase 1. The applications were due in September 2011.

In the spring of 2012, NHGRI plans to award up to $1.5 million to as many as three investigators for three-year pediatric eMERGE studies. Another NIH Institute the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development plans to co-fund these grants with NHGRI.