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TGen and Geisinger Health System announce strategic partnership

PHOENIX, Ariz., and DANVILLE, Pa. Feb. 3, 2010 The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Geisinger Health System today announced the signing of a strategic research agreement that provides for a focused look at the gaps in clinical medicine where biomedical research can make a difference.

One of the first projects will focus on the causes of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic conditions. Researchers plan to look at the possible genetic reasons why so many Americans are overweight, and why diet, exercise and, specifically, bariatric surgery may fail to significantly reduce excess weight in some patients.

TGen, a non-profit biomedical research institute based in Phoenix, will pair its genomic and proteomic research expertise with the clinical excellence and research expertise of Geisinger, a non-profit medical and insurance provider based in Danville, Pa.

Geisinger's strength is its integrated healthcare delivery model, nontransitory population and advanced electronic health record (EHR) with nearly two decades of data. In addition to providing the clinical underpinnings for the study of obesity, the data within the EHR will provide researchers the evidence they need to make discoveries in future projects centered on cancer and other serious diseases.

"Merging Geisinger's wealth of clinical information with our genomic and proteomic expertise should provide researchers a richer framework for exploring the genetic origins of disease, and hopefully lead to improved treatments and outcomes," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, Ph.D., TGen's President and Research Director.

TGen emphasizes a translational research process intended to quickly turn laboratory discoveries into new drugs and other treatments that can benefit patients, a goal shared by Geisinger.

"Given our unique research structure and a patient population that overwhelmingly supports cutting-edge research, I am confident that this partnership will allow us to test and apply new clinical translation theories to patient care," said Glenn D. Steele, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., Geisinger's President and CEO. "I look forward to the results of this first study, as I am confident we can greatly improve the outcomes for individuals coping with obesity and its many associated complications."

According to 2009 Census data, nearly one-third of the U.S. adult population is overweight and considered obese. The impact of obesity on one's health is great, often leading to a shortened lifespan. A disease, obesity is not always caused by overeating or lack of exercise, and research has shown there is often an underlying genetic component leading to excess weight gain.

David Carey, Ph.D., Director of the Sigfried and Janet Weis Center for Research, located on the campus of the Geisinger Medical Center, agreed that the collaboration should advance patient care. "Identification of patients at risk for chronic metabolic diseases would provide enormous benefit to health care. Geisinger's ability to obtain detailed, electronic health information in real time for a large, stable patient population will significantly accelerate this research effort."

Johanna DiStefano, Ph.D., Director of TGen's Diabetes, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Diseases Division, will lead TGen's efforts to understand the genetic basis of obesity and liver disease. She said research strategies would capitalize on the synergistic strengths of a large multidisciplinary research program in obesity at Geisinger. "I am confident that the long-term results of this collaboration will yield improved diagnostic and therapeutic outcomes for countless individuals suffering from chronic metabolic diseases."

TGen also plans to bring to bear its collaboration with the Partnership for Personalized Medicine (PPM), which includes TGen, Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The PPM's mission is to improve medical outcomes and reduced costs through more effective diagnosis of disease risk, early stage, and matching patients to therapies.

"Working with Geisinger will provide yet another significant opportunity for the Partnership for Personalized Medicine to provide better evidence to meet the specific medical needs of individual patients," said Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., a 2001 Nobel laureate and Executive Committee Chairman of PPM.

The research partnership between TGen and Geisinger will also address some of the nation's other critical health challenges. Preliminary discussions covered such research areas as genetic variations that predispose individuals to disease, congestive heart failure, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and the potential side effects of prescription drugs.


Contact: Steve Yozwiak
The Translational Genomics Research Institute

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