Healthcare Orgs Aim to Expand Precision Medicine Research

By Jessica Kent

May 4, 2021 – Healthcare organizations are increasingly looking to expand their research efforts in precision medicine and genomics, with two recent partnerships reflecting the industry’s goal of improving these areas of care.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded Geisinger a five-year $ 3.6 million contract to study the role of genetic variation in cancer. Researchers from Geisinger and NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) will analyze genetic data from Geisinger’s MyCode Community Health Initiative, a precision medicine project with more than 276,000 participants allowed.

The research team will use a ‘genome-first’ approach, analyzing data from MyCode participants to identify specific gene variants and then linking that information to the participants’ EHRs. This allows researchers to determine the impact of these gene variants on cancer risk.

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The size and scope of the MyCode project provides the opportunity to explore the relationship between multiple genes and cancers to gain a better understanding of genetic cancer risk in a large clinical population. This expands the list of genes that can be used to guide genetic cancer screening, improving care for patients and families.

“This collaboration allows researchers from Geisinger and NCI to combine our expertise in cancer diagnosis, epidemiology, cancer biology and genetics,” said David J. Carey, PhD, professor and chair of the Molecular and Functional Genomics Department at Geisinger and a MyCode director researcher.

“The data available through MyCode provides us with a unique opportunity to investigate the genetic risk of cancer in a large regional population.”

Since 2007, MyCode has enrolled more than 276,000 participants in Pennsylvania. With DNA sequence and health data currently available on nearly 175,000 of these participants, MyCode is one of the largest studies of its kind in the world.

Elsewhere in healthcare, Shriners Hospitals for Children and Georgia Institute of Technology are expanding their collaboration to include the fields of precision medicine and big data analysis and interpretation in 2021.

The new initiative will create pilot research projects and tools that align with the needs and goals of Shriners Hospitals’ network of clinicians to enable state-of-the-art clinical research and facilitate clinical practice.

The seed grants will support Georgia Tech faculty and research associates working directly with Shriners Hospitals for Children physicians and surgeons. The overall goal remains to improve the lives of children treated at Shriners Hospitals.

“This particular round of research is all about moving forward with information and data and making them accessible to research and patient care,” said Leanne West, chief engineer of pediatric technologies at GIT.

“With the unique data from Shriners Hospitals and GIT’s data analytics expertise, we will be able to provide more specific information for diagnosis and treatment of future Shriners Hospitals for Children patients.”

The first seed grant opportunity, supported by Shriners Hospitals, inspired research partners to come up with seven innovative clinical research projects.

“These seven projects represent the breadth of care offered at Shriners Hospitals, and they are very focused on the specific research needs for each of the patient populations,” said Coleman Hilton, research informatics manager at Shriners Hospitals for Children, who is responsible for addressing resource needs of the teams.

The teams, which receive two-year seed grants of $ 50,000 or $ 150,000 through Shriners Hospitals, are led by principal investigators from each institution. Georgia Tech researchers have teamed up with Shriners Hospitals to establish a new Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) prototype as the backend server for research projects.

“We want to enable interoperable management of clinical data across all locations of Shriners Hospitals,” said May Dongmei Wang, a professor in Wallace H. Coulter’s Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“We will assist four Shriners Hospitals locations in developing three FHIR applications to demonstrate acceleration of the clinical informatics pipeline from idea to data and insights using FHIR.”

The initiative has the potential to improve the lives of children around the world in the future.

“This program allows us to capture, access, share and analyze data, including diagnostics, radiographic images and genomics, in a way that is currently not available in the existing patient registries and research databases at Shriners Hospitals for Children,” said Marc Lalande, vice-president. president of Shriners Hospitals for Children research programs.

“The infrastructure that will be developed will not only enhance our clinical research capabilities, but also advance our clinical practices.”

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