Two Arizona-based philanthropic organizations have committed $45 million to fund an initiative to develop personalized molecular diagnostics. The ability to diagnose and treat disease based on every person's unique physiological makeup is critical to enabling physicians to improve health outcomes while at the same time reducing medical costs.
Under the Partnership for Personalized Medicine, The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust has committed $35 million and the Flinn Foundation has granted $10 million to bring together a wide range of resources to advance a global personalized medicine initiative.
World-renowned scientist Dr. Lee Hartwell, 2001 Nobel laureate and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been recruited to lead this effort. The Hutchinson Center, based in Seattle, is a leader in using molecular diagnostics for the early detection and clinical management of cancer and other diseases.
In addition to his current position as president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, he will chair the Partnership executive committee, which includes Dr. George Poste, director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, and Dr. Jeffrey Trent, president and scientific director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
"It is a tremendous opportunity for me to be a part of this new model for improving health while reducing health care costs that is being funded by the Piper and Flinn foundations," Hartwell said.
"The collaboration between TGen, the Biodesign Institute at ASU, other institutions in Arizona and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center brings together enormous expertise to tackle major challenges in bringing new science and technology to disease management."
The cornerstone of the Partnership is the creation of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics that draws upon the scientific strengths of two of the state's leading bioscience entities, TGen and the Biodesign Institute at ASU, each of which will contribute significant laboratory space to the effort.
The Piper Center will utilize bioinformatics and high-performance computing expertise at both institutions, existing nanotechnology and imaging expertise at the Biodesign Institute, and supercomputing resources through ASU's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.
Additionally, an industrial scale, high-throughput proteomics production facility will be established that taps expertise at both TGen and the Biodesign Institute at ASU in robotics, protein analysis and computing.
Hartwell's involvement provides the Piper Center with opportunity to draw on the Hutchinson Center's extensive capabilities in health economics and the design of clinical and public-health trials through consultative and collaborative relationships.
According to John Murphy, president and CEO of the Flinn Foundation, biomarker discovery and diagnostic development could ultimately lead to earlier disease detection and more precise disease management.
"To leverage Arizona's institutional assets, the Flinn Foundation's grant commitment to TGen will link Arizona's research universities, health care providers, research institutes and industry partners throughout the state to support the collection and storage of biospecimens and drive Arizona-centric demonstration projects," Murphy said.
"The Holy Grail of personalized medicine includes blood-based tests that improve diagnosis and help direct clinical care," said Trent. "The unparalleled opportunity the Partnership provides is to expand the magnitude of proteomic studies across a spectrum of key clinical questions."
The Partnership includes recruitment of new faculty and will engage national and international partners to ensure developments are rapidly commercialized.