Leroy Hood’s Personalized Medicine Vision Enters Proving Ground at Ohio State

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to be worked out, Hood says. One is how best to preserve blood samples to run multiple analyses for genes, proteins, messenger RNA, microRNA, whole cells and more, Hood says. Once that’s settled, researchers need to create information technology that is standardized and can seamlessly integrate all those data points—running into the billions for every individual patient—so researchers can spot patterns in what’s gone awry genetically and what’s wrong symptomatically.

Ohio State was the right choice, Hood says, because it performs the functions of both payer and provider of healthcare services to its 55,000 employees and health plan members. That eliminated that hassles with insurance companies that have stymied previous partnership talks. Importantly, Ohio State’s top medical brass have been on a personalized medicine kick for five years, so the idea isn’t completely foreign. Personal ties helped too. Steven Gabbe, the CEO of the Ohio State University Medical Center, goes way back with Hood—the two of them were department chairs at the University of Washington in the late 1990s. And at one point, Hood personally came to speak to the Ohio State University board of trustees, and met with president Gordon Gee, to clinch the deal.

Many of the details on this partnership have yet to be ironed out. The plan is for Ohio State to create a “demonstration project,” in which OSU community members will enroll in clinical trials and people at both Ohio State and ISB will create unified medical records that connect what’s happening at the genetic level with the information people are recording on their health status (things like their diet, exercise, and stress levels). The goals will be to get these trials up and running, generate published knowledge from them, recruit other medical schools to join the cause, and use the experience to enrich the Ohio State medical school curriculum, Gabbe says.

Steve Gabbe

Steve Gabbe

“We think this will help us recruit and retain terrific people who want to do something exciting,” Gabbe says. “Our president Gordon Gee has said we are in a war for talent, and we think this will distinguish us.”

It will probably be six to nine months before the first clinical trials get going, Lee says. He didn’t have details on what diseases the collaboration will seek to study first. But to offer an example, Gabbe noted that he has Type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks pancreatic beta cells, making people unable to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar. Gabbe, 65, diagnosed himself when he was 25 years old and in medical school. He already has personalized therapy, in form of an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor, and an ability to adjust his insulin needs based on his diet, exercise, and stress levels on a daily basis.

But what intrigues him today is what could be learned from his genome. About 60 percent of people with a certain genotype are likely to get Type 1 diabetes as children or young adults. It’s not really known what triggers the immune system to go awry and fight pancreatic beta cells. If people could find out their genetic risk profile for Type 1 diabetes, then they or their parents could adjust their behavior, to say, reduce stress in the hopes that this will keep them healthy for a longer period of time into adulthood, when the symptoms are likely to be less severe, Gabbe says.

So that might be one example of the benefit, but I can imagine there will be plenty of people cautious about the risk side of the equation. Last month, Arizona State University agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a dispute with the Havasupai Indian tribe, which said … Next Page »

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