Intermountain to open new center for pediatric precision medicine

The center will use precision genomics to discover, address and treat genetic diseases, many of which affect infants and children and can cause life-long disability.
By Nathan Eddy
12:26 PM

Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital, along with University of Utah Health, and Intermountain Precision Genomics are teaming up to launch a pediatric center for personalized medicine that will serve the Intermountain West.

WHY IT MATTERS
The center will use precision genomics to discover, address and treat genetic diseases, many of which affect infants and children and can cause life-long disability.

The Center will focus on precision diagnosis, gene therapies and novel therapeutics, and stem cell, immunologic and regenerative medicine.

Precision medicine includes applications across diagnostics, prevention and screening that takes into account individual variabilities in genes, environment, and lifestyle for every individual.

Through its work on precision diagnosis, the Center hopes to provide more targeted care to critically-ill children based on their genetic make-up, where rapid whole genome sequencing can quickly identify genetic causes of hard-to-diagnose diseases.

The initial efforts will be focused on providing answers to critically ill infants in the newborn intensive care unit, and children with severe seizures and heart conditions.

The research into gene therapies and novel therapeutics will help enable children with previously debilitating and fatal genetic diseases, with clinical trials testing gene therapy treatments for Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy, Adrenoleukodystrophy, and other serious diseases.

The Center is also developing novel therapeutics that target specific diseases and improve health, with a release noting the Center is one of only six hospitals nationwide to provide gene therapy for the common childhood genetic condition spinal muscular atrophy.

Stem cell research uses a child's own cells, or genetically modifies a child's cells and immune system, to fight disease and promote healing, with additional research aimed at developing immunotherapy as a tool to fight pediatric brain tumors.

The organization also noted clinical trials are testing the use of stem cells in repairing diseased hearts and other tissues.

THE LARGER TREND
Intermountain has been busy on this front recently. In June, the health system announced that it is performing a massive clinical DNA study, pairing 500,000 samples drawn from Intermountain Health’s patient population and analyzing them with help from deCODE, a subsidiary of Reykjavik-based Amgen.

"Better health and being able to cure common diseases is the promise of precision medicine, but it’s not happening fast enough," said Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO at Intermountain Healthcare, announcing that initiative. "For too long, the genetic code to better health has been locked. This collaboration with deCODE unlocks that insight so we can rapidly advance well-being – not only for ourselves and our families, but for generations to come.”

Intermountain's new pediatrics personalized medicine announcement also follows Mount Sinai's just-announced plans to build new precision medicine supercomputer, which will have 15 terabytes of memory, 14 petabytes of raw storage and a peak speed of 220 teraflops per second, to manage massive amounts of genomic data.

ON THE RECORD
"Our mission is to leverage the expertise of our scientists, the clinical care of our physicians and care-givers, and the dedication of our community, to discover and develop new cures for children," said Dr. Josh Bonkowsky, University of Utah Health's medical director of the Primary Children's Center for Personalized Medicine, in a statement. "The work we are doing here and now is transforming pediatric medicine. We will not be done until we have put these diseases out of business."

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com
Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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