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Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to Expand Center for Personalized Medicine

February 16, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Children's Hospital Los Angeles has announced that it is committing $50 million to expand its Center for Personalized Medicine.

This investment in research and innovation will aim to help unlock the human genome’s potential with the goal of making diagnoses more effective, therapies more targeted, and healthcare more personalized for children, according to officials from the hospital.

The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Board of Trustees recently approved the investment in the Center, to be disbursed over the next five years. The institution will seek an additional $50 million in philanthropic funding from the community to support the translation of research outcomes in the lab into bedside care for infants, children and adolescents.

“Medicine is on the verge of a new era as game-changing as the discovery of antibiotics,” Richard D. Cordova, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said in a news release statement. “With President Obama’s recent announcement of support for the Precision Medicine Initiative, I am pleased to know that our institution has the capacity to lead the development of better treatments and cures for children…We have ambitious goals and are uniquely poised to deliver on them in support of personalized medicine research and clinical care.”

Children’s Hospital’s investment in the Center for Personalized Medicine will focus on three areas with the greatest potential to positively impact children’s health, its officials say: cancer, inherited diseases and infectious diseases. CHLA has leading clinical and research programs in each of these areas, and the hospital will leverage its existing resources and expertise to use genetic testing to refine and make treatment and care more precise for each.

The Center will initially focus on pediatric cancer. The Vision Center and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at CHLA have already developed a new gene sequencing test that will identify all changes related to the retinoblastoma gene (RB1) in eye cancer patients, using genomic sequencing technology and bioinformatics. As the program develops, it will expand its efforts to include genetic conditions such as epilepsy, autism, neurocognitive disorders, congenital heart disease and cleft palate.

With the use of personalized medicine, the Center predicts that, in the future:
• diseases will be diagnosed earlier and more accurately.
• treatments will be safer and more effective.
• visits to the doctor will focus on prevention. 
• some conditions will be treated before symptoms ever emerge.

 “In the near future, a newborn’s genome will be sequenced at birth (or even before), permitting clinicians to plan a lifetime of personalized, preventive health care that focuses on preventing, rather than reacting to, illness,” said Alexander R. Judkins, M.D., executive director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at CHLA and head of the hospital’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. The Center is led by Judkins and will be part of the hospital’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He added, “The practice of personalized medicine and the development of targeted treatments will depend on comprehensive, long-term research using vast amounts of genetic data. Tremendous computing power is essential for scientists to begin to identify the millions of possible combinations of mutations that contribute to illness or disease, and ultimately to make meaningful discoveries that will lead to better treatments. The investment necessary to realize the vast potential of personalized medicine at CHLA is large, but the dividends that will be paid in the form of longer and healthier lives for generations of children are enormous.”

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