UC, Children's Launch Center for Computational Medicine

The University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have received a grant of $25.2 million - one of the largest grants in the two institutions' histories - from the state of Ohio's Third Frontier Project to create a Wright Center for Innovation.

The grant will fund a Center for Computational Medicine at Cincinnati Children's and the UC College of Medicine.  The Center will use sophisticated computers to analyze more than 3 billion complex pieces of information found in each of the trillions of cells in the human body.  This analysis, using research and tools from the fields of genetics, systems biology and information and computer sciences, will result in fundamental discoveries about diseases that affect children and adults.  The Center will lead to new and better treatments - not only to cure diseases but also to prevent them.

"Computational medicine will change the future of health care delivery by predicting risks for common diseases and assisting with devising earlier and better treatments as well as preventive strategies for each patient," says Tom Boat, MD, chairman of Pediatrics and director of the Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation.  "This personalized, predictive approach to care represents a potentially powerful tool for achieving better health for children and adults.  The Center will be a catalyst for commercialization of innovations that fully integrate genetic and genomic information into clinical medicine."

The Center also positions the state of Ohio to capitalize on future technology opportunities by enhancing Ohio's computational infrastructure.  It will benefit Ohio's citizens by partnering with Ohio businesses to transfer innovations in diagnosis and treatment from the research bench to the bedside.  The Center is expected to create 203 new jobs in the next five years and have a $240 million direct impact on the region's economy.

"The investment made by the Governor's Third Frontier Program holds the promise of transforming our current approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of major illnesses," says Jane Henney, MD, senior vice president and provost for health affairs at the UC Medical Center.  "We look forward to this undertaking with the College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children's, and our industry partners."

The Center will bring together world-class physicians, researchers and commercial partners.  Business partners include P&G; Sun Microsystems; Molecular Research Center, a Cincinnati-based assay development company; and three Ohio software companies: Acero, Cincom and It-Cube.  Other partners include the Ohio Supercomputer Center, CincyTech and Biostart.

"This leading-edge, biomedical research will create new, high paying jobs for Greater Cincinnati and offer new approaches for preventing and treating disease," adds Nancy Zimpher, PhD, president of UC.  "Today we celebrate the beginning of a new project that will drive the future economy of the State of Ohio.

Technologies developed at the Center will enable scientists to achieve discoveries that, in the near term, will improve the ability to fight the causes of hearing loss, cardiac disease, asthma, diabetes and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  In the longer term, discoveries will fight obesity, psychiatric illness and cancer.

"Someday, we will have the ability to use genetic information from an infant to accurately predict if that patient has the propensity to develop disease or disability," says John Pestian, PhD, director of the Center for Computational Medicine.  "At the same time, we will be able to devise an individualized, preventative therapy that best suits that person's genetic makeup."

For example, heart failure affects five million adults, and there are 500,000 new cases of heart failure each year.  Half of those with heart failure die within five years.  Predicting who will develop heart disease, who will progress to severe failure requiring heart transplant and which medicines to use have been major challenges.  In recent years, Stephen Liggett, MD, and other investigators from the UC College of Medicine who will be working at the Center have discovered some genetic variants that "program" the heart and are developing a test to personalize care for this disease.

Likewise, in pediatrics, 40,000 children are born with hearing impairments each year.  Half of these impairments have a genetic origin, but it is difficult to determine which ones.  Soon, John Greinwald, MD, and other researchers at Cincinnati Children's will use computational medicine to more easily determine the source of origin of hearing loss and develop treatments for children based on their individual genetic makeup.

"Incredible progress has been made in Cincinnati and the entire international biomedical research community in the application of genome knowledge to revolutionize our understanding of the molecular pathways of disease," says Bruce Aronow, PhD, associate director of the Center.  "The systems and products made within the Center and by its commercial partners will empower a new generation of discovery for individualized preventions, treatments, and cures of disease."

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