Geisinger launches Precision Health Center

Will pioneer telegenomic projects
By Mike Miliard
10:48 AM
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DNA

As precision medicine comes to the fore thanks to a pioneering new federal initiative, Geisinger Health System has opened its own Precision Health Center, a 14,000-square-foot facility that will play host to leading-edge genomics research.

[See also: Meet the 19 members of President Obama's Precision Medicine team]

Housing specialized teams from Geisinger's Clinical Genomics and Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute, the new center will offer space for clinical research, in addition to patient care center with a "first-of-its-scale" telemedicine genomics program, say Geisinger officials. Specialized video consult technology will enable specialists to consult with patients and providers worldwide.

"Much of what we will be doing here will be completely groundbreaking in terms of research and direct patient care," said Glenn D. Steele Jr., MD, president and chief executive officer of Geisinger Health System during a ribbon cutting on April 20.

[See also: A genomic CDS takes shape at Intermountain]

President Barack Obama recently launched the federal Precision Medicine Initiative, under the National Institutes of Health. With a proposed budget of $215 million for the first year, the hope is to drive innovations in genomic sequencing that can better identify diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and develop drugs that target specific genetic variants in individuals.

At Geisinger, the plan is to "give patients access to genomically informed healthcare in a manner and at a scale that has not been seen before," said Michael Murray, MD, director of clinical genomics at the Geisinger Genomic Medicine Institute, in a press statement.

"In the facility's initial phase, we will be consulting with people engaged in Geisinger's MyCode Community Health Initiative; however we expect to expand the use of this cutting-edge telegenomics technology at the new Precision Health Center rapidly in order to extend this type of care to providers and their patients anywhere," he added.

Patients cared for at the Geisinger Precision Health Center can have their genome sequenced, interpreted and applied to their medical care by a team of physician geneticists, genetic counselors and other medical specialists, officials say.

The eventual hope is for its telegenomic capabilities to enable GPHC to serve as a resource to other providers and patients seeking a second opinion.

"Patients around the block or around the globe will be able to receive care from the center, with professionals delivering care on-site as well as through a state-of-the-art telehealth program," said Murray. "The center will encourage scientific investigation and education through collaborations with colleges and universities, including clinical, health economics and pharmacy research programs."

The Precision Health Center will also house the second regional center for Geisinger's Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute, officials say, with clinicians and researchers working with educators and scientists to apply personalized medicine to conditions, such as genetic testing to more precisely diagnose a patient's developmental disorder and provide a more precise level of care.