On April 20, the Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System opened its Precision Health Center, a 14,000-square-foot, $562,000 facility that will serve as the primary location for Geisinger research in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The center in Forty Fort will house clinical research space as well as a patient care center with a telemedicine genomics program. The effective use of real-time specialized video-conferencing software will allow Geisinger specialists and visiting national experts to consult with patients or their providers from anywhere in the world, officials say. "This new facility certainly represents the introduction of genomic medicine in this region of Pennsylvania, and much of what we will be doing here will be completely groundbreaking in terms of research and direct patient care," said Glenn D. Steele Jr., M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Geisinger Health System.
The use of genomic data to guide patient care and disease management is a new and rapidly evolving area of medicine that was recently endorsed by President Obama with the creation of a federal Precision Medicine Initiative, which will be governed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). President Obama has proposed an initial budget of $215 million for the first year of initiative, which will conduct genomic sequencing as a way to better identify diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and develop drugs that target specific genetic variants in individuals.
Geisinger is already engaged in a large-scale genomic effort designed to identify genetic variants associated with human disease in collaboration with the Regeneron Genetics Center, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company. This collaboration has already sequenced the exomes—portions of the genome that provide protein coding—of more than 30,000 people, with plans to sequence 250,000 or more. Geisinger will be able to provide the participants with any validated results of the sequencing that show understood genetic risks for disease, but others looking at the data will not have access to any identifying information on the participants, officials say.
"The genomic data that will become available to our team at Forty Fort will allow us to give patients access to genomically informed health care in a manner and at a scale that has not been seen before," said Michael Murray, M.D., director of clinical genomics, Geisinger Genomic Medicine Institute. "In the facility's initial phase, we will be consulting with people engaged in Geisinger's MyCode Community Health Initiative; however we expect to expand the use of this cutting-edge telegenomics technology at the new Precision Health Center rapidly in order to extend this type of care to providers and their patients anywhere,” Murray said.
Patients seen for clinical care at the Geisinger Precision Health Center will be able to have their genome sequenced, interpreted and applied to their medical care by a comprehensive team of physician geneticists, genetic counselors and other medical specialists. The facility will ultimately act as a resource to other institutions, providers and patients locally, nationally and internationally seeking a second opinion.