Ohio Awards $25.2 Million to UC, Children's
Published December 2003
Imagine a future of medicine so technologically
advanced that your prevention plan or treatment options could be
personalized based on your genetic make-up and family history. Now
imagine this all happening with a few key-strokes and the click of a
This is the future of care in Cincinnati if UC has
anything to do with it. In October, the UC Medical Center and
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center were awarded $25.2
million from the State of Ohio's Third Frontier Fund to form the
collaborative Center for Computational Medicine.
Computational medicine at UC and Cincinnati Children's
will combine high-powered computer technology, with already existing
and newly discovered scientific and health-related data, to form a more
complete medical history and "medical future" of patients. Work
completed at the Center for omputational Medicine will have a large
presence within affiliated hospitals through medical data
communications. Researchers and physicians working at the Center will
place, side-by-side, existing knowledge of disease, disease history,
and information about the patient's genome, to form personalized
diagnoses and treatments based on an individuals genetic make-up.
The UC Medical Center and Cincinnati Children's already
work together in many ways, and constitute one of the largest National
Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded medical campuses in the state of
Ohio. External funding tops out at more than $150 million.
Although funding through the NIH is the driver of
research at the Medical Center, it stops short of providing the
necessary monies needed to commercialize lab-bench research into
commercial products which can be used at the bedside. Third Frontier
funds, similar to those awarded to the Genome Research Institute (GRI)
in 2001, facilitate partnerships between academic and industry leaders,
increasing the products of existing biotech companies, and propelling
the formation of new biotech companies, new technologies, new jobs and
increased regional and state economic impact.
The Center for Computational Medicine will ultimately
be located in the Center for Academic Research Excellence (CARE
building), and will consist of biochemisty, genetics, and molecular
biology laboratories. The Center's computer facility will be housed in
the new addition to Cincinnati Children's. The abundance of
already-existing clinical space at the UC Medical Center and its
affiliates will serve the clinical purposes of the new Center.
With the recent upswing of entrepreneurial spirit at
UC, one might wonder how the Center for Computational Medicine differs
from other industry/academic synergies. Technologies developed at the
Center will enable scientists to achieve discoveries that, in the near
term, will improve the ability to fight the causes of hearing loss,
cardiac disease, asthma, diabetes and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. In
the longer term, discoveries will fight obesity, psychiatric illness
"The UC College of Medicine is internationally
recognized for cutting-edge research in the treatment of diseases such
as asthma, diabetes, obesity, stroke and cardiovascular diseases," said
William J. Martin II, MD, dean, UC College of Medicine. "UC
researchers, such as Steve Liggett, MD, have already discovered that a
patient's genetic make-up can affect his or her response to heart
medications. The Center for Computational Medicine will accelerate this
research beyond current standardized treatments, and will provide
insight into more effective prevention and treatments. We are proud of
our exceptional faculty at the UC College of Medicine and the
partnerships that have resulted in this award from the state of Ohio."
Researchers have found that matching the human genome,
with its many variations, to clinical status, is very difficult. For
example, heart failure affects five million adults, and there are
500,000 new cases of heart failure each year. Half of those with heart
failure die within five years. Predicting who will develop heart
disease, who will progress to severe failure requiring heart transplant
and which medicines to use have been major challenges. In recent years,
Dr. Liggett, and other investigators from the UC College of Medicine
who will be working at the Center, have discovered some genetic
variants that "program" the heart. Dr. Liggett and his colleagues are
developing a test to personalize care for this disease.
"For our own work, the Center will open two bottlenecks
that we have experienced in trying to merge genetic and clinical
information," said Dr. Liggett, Taylor Professor of Medicine in the
Department of Internal Medicine. "First, we will finally have the
computational tools and storage space (multiple terabytes of disk
space) to analyze the data. Secondly, our partnerships with industry
will enable discoveries to become viable products that can be used in
routine medical care."
The computer software created at the Center will merge
the vast amount of genomic information with complicated clinical
information. This will all happen as the Center brings together
world-class physicians, researchers and commercial partners. Business
partners include Sun Microsystems, Molecular Research Center (a
Cincinnati-based assay development company), and three Ohio software
companies: Acero, Cincom and It-Cube. Other partners include the Ohio
Supercomputer Center, P&G, CincyTech and Bio/START.
"The investment made by the Governor's Third Frontier
Program holds the promise of transforming our current approaches to
prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of major illnesses," said Jane E.
Henney, MD, senior vice president and provost for health affairs at the
UC Medical Center. "We look forward to this undertaking with the
College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children's, and our industry partners."
"This leading-edge, biomedical research will create
new, high paying jobs for Greater Cincinnati and offer new approaches
for preventing and treating disease," added Nancy Zimpher, PhD,
president of UC. "We celebrate the beginning of a new project that will
drive the future economy of the State of Ohio."