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Mexico-US collaboration launched to study major human diseases

Mexico City, Mexico and Cambridge, MA, USA Tuesday, January 19 Mexican business leader Carlos Slim Hel today announced the launch of a major research project in genomic medicine that will help accelerate progress in public health in Mexico and around the world. The project will be carried out by the Carlos Slim Institute of Health in partnership with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the National Institute for Genomic Medicine of the Mexican Secretariat of Health. The major goal is to understand the genomic basis of cancer in worldwide populations and of type 2 diabetes in Mexican and Latin American populations.

The project, called Slim Initiative for Genomic Medicine, will last three years and will receive US $65M in support from the Carlos Slim Institute of Health. It will leverage the Broad Institute's expertise and capabilities in the most advanced technologies in genomic sequencing.

The project also involves the training of Mexican experts under the leadership of the National Institute of Genomic Medicine of the Mexican Secretariat of Health, the leading institution in genomic research in Latin America.

The findings of this research will help accelerate both the prevention of disease as well as the development of improved therapies in Mexico and beyond.

Referring to the importance of the project, Carlos Slim said, "I am convinced that only through genomics will we be able to face the costly burden of illnesses that strain the budgets of even the richest countries."

"Carlos Slim is making a visionary commitment to public health in the Americas in two ways," said Dr. Eric S. Lander, director and president of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "First, in recognizing that progress in public health must be built on a foundation of scientific understanding of the genetic basis of disease. Second, in recognizing that deepening the scientific ties between the US and Mexico can have great benefits for both countries. We look forward to making common cause with our colleagues in Mexico."

The research project will make use of new technologies for decoding or "sequencing" DNA, which have made it possible for researchers to study DNA more rapidly and at a lower cost than ever before. In cancer, the scientists will create catalogs of the genetic abnormalities (called "mutations") that occur across different cancer types. Such knowledge aims to reveal key genetic weaknesses that can be exploited by new cancer therapies and to identify which patients are most likely to respond to specific cancer drugs.

In type 2 diabetes, the researchers will also assemble systematic descriptions of the genetic factors underlying the disease, with a special focus on Latin American populations. Diabetes is among the most common inherited diseases in Latin America, yet a deep knowledge of the genetic risk factors in the region's populations is lacking. A profound understanding of these factors is needed in order to foster prevention, treatment, and control.

During the three years of the project, major findings will be publicly announced. In order to guarantee that the project benefits science and the population in general, the main recipient of its findings will be the National Institute for Genomic Medicine.

To supervise the scientific progress of the project a Scientific Advisory Board has been established. It is composed of renowned scientists from around the world with vast experience in the fields of cancer, diabetes, and genomic science.


Contact: Nicole Davis
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

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