Department welcomes new Duke Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Earlier this year, Duke University disbanded the 10-year-old Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy (IGSP).

That move gave Geoff Ginsburg, MD, PhD, and a dozen of his IGSP collaborators a new opportunity to bring genomics and precision medicine to the forefront of medicine at Duke.

They found a willing partner in the Department of Medicine, which this fall became home to the new Duke Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine and the group’s numerous initiatives to promote translational genomics and medicine within the department and across the university.

The new center is a combination of two previous successful enterprises at Duke—The Center for Genomic Medicine, a division of the former IGSP, and the Duke Center for Personalized and Precision Medicine within the Duke University Health System.

Both of those previous centers were directed by Ginsburg, professor of medicine (Cardiology) and of biomedical engineering.

“The Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine aims to accelerate the application of innovative approaches to disease detection and characterization in order to improve patient outcomes,” said Dr. Ginsburg.

The placement of the center in the Department of Medicine is strategic and deliberate, he said. It’s meant to catalyze innovation in genomics and medicine and to quicken the pace at which genomic medicine and personalized care is woven into the fabric of the department’s three missions.

“Geoff and his collaborators presented an exciting vision for an innovative and cross-cutting mission,” said Mary Klotman, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine. “I am particularly interested in their ideas for helping faculty across the department engage in the emerging fields of systems medicine and precision medicine.”

Ginsburg’s philosophy for success is based on partnerships and collaboration. He will continue building bridges within medicine and across the campus to make the center an intellectual home for precision medicine and genome-inspired biomarker discovery at Duke, and a leading campus partner in the analytic and translational approaches to diagnostics into disease biology.

The center’s approach to precision medicine, said Ginsburg, revolves around the idea that genomic information, when properly delivered to providers and patients, will allow better targeting and tailoring of preventive and therapeutic recommendations.

“Systems medicine and the application of the genome-derived information to the clinic will require true multidisciplinary integration,” said Ginsburg.

Both Klotman and Ginsburg said they recognize that collaboration among research groups, and more integration between clinical and health system environments, will be important as health care evolves.

“Our goal is to create an ecosystem of clinicians, scientists, and other key stakeholders who can be catalysts for driving the adoption of personalized medicine across Duke Medicine,” said Ginsburg.

He pointed to the MeTree family history software developed at Duke as one example of the kind of tools the center has developed for clinicians and patients. MeTree is used by patients on their laptops or tablets to enter a detailed family health history. Physicians then receive and use the results from the MeTree risk-assessment tool to better plan treatment and prevention choices for each patient.

Using an NIH-funded U01 grant, Ginsburg hopes to see this expanded family history integrated into the electronic medical records and clinical workflow in the Duke University Health System as well as in four other major health care delivery systems across the United States. (Learn more.

Klotman expects to see more of these innovations to come from the collaborations fostered by the center in the Department of Medicine and across the Duke campus.

“The Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine can be an important contributor to Duke’s blueprint for innovation in medical science discovery and in health care,” said Klotman.

The center has already started taking on that role. In October, Ginsburg facilitated a mix-and-mingle session with faculty members of Medicine and the Department of Biomedical Engineering (part of the Pratt School of Engineering).

Other core members of the center include Chris Woods (associate director, Applied Genomics), Lori Orlando (associate director, Precision Medicine), Deepak Voora, Ryanne Wu, Susanne Haga, Micah McClain, Ephraim Tsalik and Art Moseley, as well as Allison Vorderstrasse from the School of Nursing.

More than 50 other Duke faculty members are expected to participate as affiliates of the center, and Ginsburg invites others to take part in the “open-tent” center.

Faculty and staff offices for the Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine are located in CIEMAS and North Building. Learn more about the center at the temporary website,

Other post-IGSP centers

In addition to the Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine in the Department of Medicine, two other units spun out of the former Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy.

A second spin-off program is a new Center for Genomics and Computational Biology headed by Greg Wray, professor of biology. That effort will continue to provide education, research and training in genomics and computational biology, hosting a suite of core resources and a coherent research community involving faculty from several schools.

The third major component is Duke Science & Society, a campus-wide program that promotes interdisciplinary education, engagement, and scholarship to ensure that scientific research delivers tangible benefits to society. Among its first class of master’s students in bioethics and science policy are Medicine faculty members Ephraim Tsalik, Leonor Corsino and Marilyn Telen. Science & Society is directed by Nita Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy.