The virtual 2021 IU Precision Health Initiative retreat took place on Friday, March 12. Key leaders from the IU Precision Health Initiative scientific pillars and disease research teams were present to talk about plans to sustain the success of the initiative after the first five years of the program end in August of this year. The IU Precision Health Initiative was the first Grand Challenge announced by Indiana University back in 2016. Since then, 55 new faculty members have been hired, as well as 117 nontenured employees. More than 820 peer-reviewed studies have been published and more than $89 million in grant funding has been awarded. The initiative has also created more than 350 new jobs.
Key to the success and sustainability of precision health is integration of the initiative’s progress at IU Health. Specifically, precision health research progress now needs to translate and integrate into IU Health patient care. As such it was important to hear through the first session of the day from IU Health leaders about its vision and priorities, with a focus on Precision Health. The panelists for this discussion were:
- Parveen Chand, IU Health chief operating officer
- David Ingram, MD, IU School of Medicine executive associate dean for clinical affairs, IU Health chief medical officer
- Christopher Weaver, MD, IU School of Medicine professor of emergency medicine, IU Health senior vice president of clinical effectiveness
- Subha Raman, MD, Cardiovascular Institute director
- Shelly Timmons, MD, PhD, Bruce Lamb, PhD, and Laurie Gutmann, MD, Neuroscience Institute co-directors
- Kelvin Lee, MD, IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center director and Cancer Institute director
The three institutes will play an important role in the next phase of Precision Health. The cardiovascular, neuroscience and cancer institutes were established in 2020 as part of an effort to strengthen the alignment between IU School of Medicine and IU Health. The goals of the institutes include growing multidisciplinary clinical programs, developing focused Centers of Excellence, offering unique clinical programs in Indiana, and increasing research and programmatic funding. The institute leaders have been tasked with investing in innovations and strategic priorities in a way that complements the departments that already exist at IU School of Medicine and IU Health. In the future, there may be other institutes created in areas such as musculoskeletal health and children’s health.
Also, at the retreat, participants listened to presentations about substantial progress being made in chemical biology and triple negative breast cancer, pediatric Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE), multiple myeloma and regenerative medicine.
In the afternoon, retreat participants split up into three breakout groups focused on informatics and data sciences, cell and gene therapy, and community health engagement. Each of those groups shared important information about current initiatives and brainstormed plans for sustainability moving forward.
The informatics and data sciences breakout group, led by Kun Huang, PhD, Yunlong Liu, PhD, and Umberto Tachinardi, MD, shared information about the scientific pillar’s genomics data analysis, which has completed more than 1,095 projects and generated more than 500 terabytes of data since the IU Precision Health Initiative began. The clinical informatics team has produced millions of data objects, including registries for multiple myeloma, precision genomics and pediatric solid tumors. As the team looks to future improvements and developments, important capabilities include providing clinical data for research, as well as streamlining use of clinical data.
The cell and gene therapy breakout group, led by Emily Hopewell, PhD, and Fabiana Perna, MD, PhD, talked about existing capabilities, such as bioprocess development, vector production, and cell immunotherapy and transduction. In the future, they plan to double the vector production capabilities and will have a new facility in the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center. Because of this integration with the cancer center, team members suggested Lee could help oversee the program as the IU School of Medicine leadership search for a new director for the Brown Center for Immunotherapy. Lee also shared his desire to engage in more marketing and communications efforts to help make Indianapolis a destination for gene therapy services.
The community health engagement breakout group, led by Bernice Pescosolido, PhD, and Sarah Wiehe, MD, MPH, discussed the importance of community health research that builds on the strengths of the Person to Person health interview study and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) Community Health Partnerships program. Other potential collaborations could be possible among entities such as IU School of Medicine, Regenstrief Institute, IU Fairbanks School of Public Health, and Indiana State Department of Health. All of these efforts could sustain and optimize the community outreach and engagement by partners at IU.