The Genomic Medicine pillar will focus on basic research into the genetic components that shape disease development and individual response to therapeutic interventions. We aim to dramatically increase the number of identified genetic markers that contribute to disease development and individual response to treatments. The Genomic Medicine pillar also aims to enhance the use of genomic knowledge in the practice of medicine, by tailoring medical management (both diagnostics and treatment) to the individual characteristics of each patient.
The Genomics pillar will address 3 areas of genomic medicine to which IU can contribute with maximal impact. Additionally, we will develop educational programs to address the challenges in translating genomic medicine into clinical practice:
- Cancer genomics
At its root, cancer is a disease caused by alterations of the genome. Basic research into genomic alterations is the foundation of all testing, diagnosis and therapeutic responses to cancer. Genomic approaches to cancer research focus on improving the specificity of testing by understanding individual variations in genome alteration, and finding new therapies in order to improve clinical outcomes.
Just as diseases are shaped by genomic alterations, so too does the genome shape how one responds to treatment. The pharmacogenomics program focuses on identifying genetic markers that help predict the effectiveness of different drugs, as well as the likelihood and severity of side effects. IU is a national leader in investigating the clinical utility of pharmacogenomics – exploring whether and how pharmacogenomics actually improves the treatment of specific patients – and will build on this strength through the investments of the Precision Health Initiative.
Genetics has already identified a number of genes that are informative for diagnostics and prognosis of neurological and neurocognitive diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.). However, even “single-gene” diseases whose genetic origin is well-known are impacted by ‘modifying’ genes, which contribute to variations of disease severity, symptoms, and responsiveness to treatment. Better understanding of complex genetic underpinnings of neurodegenerative disorders can help develop precision diagnosis and treatment plans for these disorders.
- Medical genomics education
The benefits of genomic medicine remain woefully underutilized, as both the general public and medical practitioners struggle to keep up with and incorporate the insights of this fast-moving field into disease diagnostics and treatment. Comprehensive and concise delivery of new findings in genomic medicine to clinicians and patients is crucial for changing the practice of healthcare in response to genomic revolution.