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Geisinger Announces New National Precision Health Initiative

November 16, 2017
by Heather Landi
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Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System has launched a new National Precision Health Initiative, an effort to extend the Geisinger model of integrating genomics and data science into precision healthcare on the national scene.

The new Geisinger National Precision Health Initiative, based in the Washington, D.C., area, will provide increased national exposure for the Geisinger model, as well as for launching new strategic partnerships and ventures. 

The program will leverage Geisinger’s MyCode Community Health Initiative and electronic health data integration. Geisinger already has more than 160,000 participants enrolled in its MyCode Community Health Initiative, a precision medicine project that includes a system-wide biobank designed to store blood and other samples used by researchers to help develop optimal treatments tailored to the individual needs of Geisinger patients. The MyCode Community Health Initiative launched in January 2014 in collaboration with the Regeneron Genetics Center.

The health system also announced the appointment of Huntington F. Willard, Ph.D., as its first director. Willard is a former president of the American Society of Human Genetics, founding director of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, and the 15th President of the Marine Biological Laboratory.  In addition to an extensive list of over 300 research publications, Willard is co-editor of the first textbook on precision medicine titled "Genomic & Precision Medicine.”

To accelerate innovation in the Geisinger National Precision Health Initiative, Willard will launch a new Precision Health Innovation Lab, leveraging discoveries and advances in genomics and data science throughout Geisinger.

"I'm thrilled to be joining the Geisinger family. I know of no other health system with such dedication to putting patients and their health first," Willard said in a statement. "I look forward to launching new programs committed to broadening Geisinger's impact in precision health on a national scale."

David H. Ledbetter, Ph.D., Geisinger executive vice president and chief scientific officer, said in a statement that Hunt Willard has built world-class genomics and precision health programs at several academic institutions and his leadership will greatly enhance Geisinger’s ability to rapidly expand the Geisinger model for precision health on a national scale.

David T. Feinberg, M.D., Geisinger president & CEO, said in a statement, “The addition of Hunt Willard to our already outstanding genomics and precision health team at Geisinger allows us to 'double-down' on our bet on this game-changing approach to anticipatory medicine – preventing early-onset cancer, cardiovascular events, and other diseases, and keeping people out of hospitals. We are already seeing this benefit to our patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and are eager to extend this program nationally.”

An elected member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, Willard will be professor of precision health and associate chief scientific officer at Geisinger, as well as director of the Geisinger National Precision Health Initiative.

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