The Precision Health Initiative is the first of Indiana University’s Grand Challenges. The initiative incorporates the social sciences, ethics, education, data and computational sciences to enable us to better prevent, identify, treat and cure diseases across a person's lifespan. Success of the Precision Health Initiative will be measured by the tangible impact it has on the lives of people living in Indiana. To focus our efforts, we have identified diseases with particularly negative impacts within Indiana.
Roughly two in five Indiana residents develop cancer. Therefore, the Precision Health Initiative has aggressive plans to develop a cure for at least one cancer. The cancers targeted for cures are either multiple myeloma, triple negative breast cancer, or both. In addition, we will cure at least one childhood cancer: pediatric sarcoma. A type of cancer characterized by tumors in the nerves, muscles or bones, pediatric sarcoma is particularly prevalent in Indiana, where counties such as Johnson County have a higher than average rate of childhood sarcomas.
The Precision Health Initiative incorporates five pillars of investigation: 1) genomic medicine; 2) cell, gene and immunotherapies; 3) chemical biology and biotherapeutics; 4) data and informatics; and 5) psychosocial, behavioral and ethics. Identified diseases are taken through each pillar using a team science approach until the disease is treated, cured or prevented.
For example, patients with multiple myeloma have their tumor genetically sequenced to extract their DNA. Then, the DNA is analyzed for the existence of a current treatment by way of the cell, gene and immunotherapy pillar. If one is not identified, the genetic information is taken to the chemical and structural biology pillar for further analysis and potential development of a new treatment using new research, capabilities and technologies. The data is stored for use in additional patients and the patient’s environment is studied – along with their behavior – in order to target their treatment even more precisely than before. The whole process is repeated until the treatment of disease is revolutionized through IU's Precision Health Initiative and Indiana's residents have become healthier. All knowledge from the initiative is being integrated into research training and clinical education to further propel IU’s reputation as one of the leading universities with one of the nation’s top medical schools.
The Precision Health Initiative was developed by a team of researchers led by Principal Investigator Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, IU’s associate vice president for University Clinical Affairs and IU School of Medicine’s executive associate dean for research affairs. The initiative is a $120 million investment in transforming biomedical research, health care and Indiana University. Through the initiative, as many as 39 new, full-time faculty members will be hired at IU School of Medicine, IU Bloomington and IUPUI. New facilities will include new gene editing and sequencing cores at IU School of Medicine, a cell Good Manufacturing Practice facility and a cross-campus Center for Chemical Biology and Biotherapeutics. The initiative will also support the creation of a Precision Health Data Commons, a Precision Health Integration and Analytics Platform, a longitudinal precision health cohort and new educational programs focusing on precision health.