Geisinger’s Translational Research Program Provides a Strong Market Differentiator
// By Lisa D. Ellis //
Geisinger Health System is on the cutting edge when it comes to precision medicine, and its capacity in this area has proven to be a strong market differentiator.
As an integrated community health system serving areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Geisinger has long been known for its patient-centered focus and innovative approach to caring for its target audience. Therefore, when the opportunity to enter the field of genomics arose a decade ago, the system was well positioned to branch out into this area.
In the process, Geisinger has created a unique model that others may replicate in the future and that may be widely scalable. At the same time, it also has provided local patients and their families with more insight into the role their DNA plays in their health status, and offers them the opportunity to make potentially life-saving decisions as needed.
Delving into Precision Medicine
This path into translational research really began about a decade ago, putting Geisinger ahead of the curve in this area.
“In 2007, Geisinger realized we were the perfect place to carry out community-based genetics research,” explains W. Andrew (Andy) Faucett, professor and director of policy and education in the office of the chief scientific officer at Geisinger.
He points out that an extensive medical records system was a big part of Geisinger’s strength. “We were early adopters of electronic health records (EHR),” he says, adding that this gave Geisinger a framework to gather genomic research and use it meaningfully. “This prompted us to start a precision medicine research project called MyCode Community Health Initiative to get a better understanding of how genomics influences health,” he says.
The program is a collaborative effort with a variety of partners, including the Regeneron Genetics Center, a biopharmaceutical company in Tarrytown, New York, that is currently sequencing the DNA of MyCode participants. MyCode looks at a patient’s DNA through blood and saliva samples to understand their genetic risk for future diseases, and uses this information to research the biology of disease and potentially develop new treatment methods.
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