New School of Medicine Program Highlights Precision Medicine at UNC

The Program for Precision Medicine in Health Care will be led by the UNC School of Medicine’s Jonathan Berg, MD, PhD. The program, funded by a $10-million grant from UNC Health Care, will be a collaboration among multiple departments within the school to bring together existing precision medicine treatments and support future endeavors in this field.

New School of Medicine Program Highlights Precision Medicine at UNC click to enlarge Blossom Damania, PhD, and Jonathan Berg, MD, PhD

Contact: Carleigh Gabryel, 919-864-0580, carleigh.gabryel@unchealth.unc.edu

October 10, 2018

CHAPEL HILL, NC – The UNC Health Care system is providing the UNC School of Medicine with $10 million over five years to focus on delivering precision medicine to every patient. The Program for Precision Medicine in Health Care will interface with efforts across the school with the primary goal of translating genomic technologies and data analytics into clinical care for UNC Health Care patients.

 “We believe that the practice of medicine is an art, but the foundation of medicine is science,” said Jonathan Berg, MD, PhD, associate professor of genetics. “We want to leverage advances from basic science and technology to improve the diagnosis and management of patients, and to make evidence-based precision screening and disease prevention part of routine medical care.”

Blossom Damania, PhD, Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and vice dean for research, advocated for the program and has appointed Berg to be program director. The program’s steering committee has identified several high-priority areas for initial emphasis: working with UNC Health Care’s electronic health record team to enhance the utility of genetic data for clinicians and researchers, implementing an adult genomic screening program, planning for a precision medicine research cohort and biobank, providing a clinical genomic analysis and disclosure service for UNC researchers, and collaborating with North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute and the health care system’s enterprise analytics and data sciences group to deploy cutting-edge data analytics and predictive modeling.

The program will support the School of Medicine mission in patient care, research, and education. Faculty members will be identified across all departments and divisions within the school to champion existing precision medicine efforts and support promising new applications (such as diagnostic sequencing, pharmacogenetics, and targeted therapies in cancer) for inclusion in the program. In addition, the program plans to collaborate with NC TraCS on a pilot grant program to provide seed funds for high-risk / high-reward proposals for precision medicine research. The educational component will reach a wide range of learners, including medical students, residents, physicians, and allied health professionals in hospital affiliates across the state.

“We want to move genomics and other cutting-edge technologies into clinical practice and are grateful for the investment UNC Health Care has made to jumpstart this program,” said Damania. “We’ll use these precision medicine methods to not only help current patients, but identify who is more likely to develop a disease in the future. With this information we can provide care sooner and provide better outcomes.”

Damania says the program should be up and running early next year.

To learn more about the program you can Dr. Jonathan Berg.

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