On Monday, Geisinger Health System formally opened its cutting edge Precision Health Center during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 14,000-square-foot,$562,000 facility located in Forty Fort will be home to highly specialized teams from Geisinger’s Clinical Genomics and Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute (ADMI), and will serve as the primary location for Geisinger Research in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The center will house clinical research space as well as a patient care center with a first-of-its-scale telemedicine genomics program. The effective use of real-time specialized video-conferencing software will allow Geisinger specialists and visiting national experts to consult with patients or their providers from anywhere in the world. The new center will also be the region’s first introduction to genomic medicine.
Making genomic data available will provide patients access to genomically informed health care in a manner and at a scale that has not been seen before,” said Michael Murray, M.D., director of clinical genomics, Geisinger Genomic Medicine Institute. During the center’s initial phase, the team will consult with people engaged in Geisinger’s MyCode Community Health Initiative; however, Murray expects to expand use of the telegenomics technology to reach patients anywhere with this type of care.
The use of genomic data to guide patient care and disease management is a new and rapidly evolving area of medicine that was recently endorsed by President Obama with the creation of a federal Precision Medicine Initiative, which will be governed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). President Obama has proposed an initial budget of $215 million for the first year of initiative, which will conduct genomic sequencing as a way to better identify diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and develop drugs that target specific genetic variants in individuals.
Geisinger is ahead of this federal initiative and already engaged in a large-scale genomic effort designed to identify genetic variants associated with human disease in collaboration with the Regeneron Genetics Center LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company. This collaboration, announced in January 2014, is a few steps ahead of the new federal initiative, having already sequenced the exomes – portions of the genome that provide protein coding – of more than 30,000 people, with plans to sequence 250,000 or more. Geisinger will be able to provide the participants with any validated results of the sequencing that show understood genetic risks for disease, but others looking at the data will not have access to any identifying information on the participants.
Patients seen for clinical care at the Geisinger Precision Health Center will be able to have their genome sequenced, interpreted and applied to their medical care by a comprehensive team of physician geneticists, genetic counselors and other medical specialists. The facility will ultimately act as a resource to other institutions, providers and patients locally, nationally and internationally seeking a second opinion. Through the effective use of telegenomic capabilities, the facility is designed to contribute to the development of best practices in this emerging field of medicine.
“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,” Dr. Murray said. “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 now house the second regional center for Geisinger’s Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute. ADMI’s first location and headquarters is located in Lewisburg at the Geisinger-Bucknell Autism & Developmental Medicine Center. ADMI’s goal is to establish a network of regional centers of excellence that will make care for children with special developmental needs as accessible, efficient and effective as possible.
Geisinger clinicians and researchers work side-by-side with educators and scientists to strengthen ADMI’s multidisciplinary approach to personalized medicine. That approach may also include genetic testing to more precisely diagnose a patient’s developmental disorder and provide a more precise level of care.