Precision medicine

Johns Hopkins launches new effort designed to improve diagnosis, care, patient outcomes

Partnership between Hopkins Medicine, Applied Physics Laboratory will bring data analysis, systems engineering to health care

Johns Hopkins Medicine and Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory today announced a joint effort to use rigorous data analysis and systems engineering practices to revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Video credit: Hopkins Medicine

The partnership builds on existing efforts at Johns Hopkins brings together the medical and systems engineering expertise at the two institutions to create a "learning health system" that will speed the translation of knowledge to practice in key areas.

"The Applied Physics Lab brings significant new data analytics and systems engineering capability to the field of medicine," said Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "These skills and experience have the potential to significantly enhance our capability to diagnose disease, predict outcomes, and treat patients better than we currently do."

Added Ralph Semmel, director of the Applied Physics Laboratory: "Johns Hopkins Medicine is one of the world's leading medical research institutions and a pioneer in the development of advanced health care treatments. By lending our considerable systems engineering and data analysis capabilities, we will further strengthen the capacity of both organizations to make critical contributions in health care delivery."

The partnership will build on existing precision medicine assets at Johns Hopkins. These include the Johns Hopkins Individualized Health Initiative, an effort launched in 2013 to use data analysis to improve the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of health conditions. It will also interact with the Johns Hopkins Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare, a collaborative research effort designed to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and consistency of health care.

As part of the effort, Johns Hopkins Medicine has identified several conditions for which precision medicine will create efficiencies, improve patient outcomes, and foster new research and treatment platforms.

Johns Hopkins aims to launch eight precision medicine centers of excellence this year to highlight areas where new technologies and measurement tools can be applied to greatly improve patient care. The centers will focus on a number of different conditions, including heart failure, genetics, multiple sclerosis, arrhythmias, and prostate cancer.

"While totally unrelated diseases, these share the trait that a diagnosis alone cannot predict how the disease will progress or whether a patient will respond to a particular treatment," said Antony Rosen, vice dean for research for JHU's School of Medicine. "With the use of new measurement tools and data analytics, patients can be divided into very distinct subgroups that are so different in trajectory, it's almost as if each subgroup represents a different disease."

Currently, a physician's expertise develops over the span of his or her career based primarily on experiences with patients that physician has personally seen. The new centers at Johns Hopkins aggregate this collective scientific knowledge, Rosen said, systematizing diagnosis and enabling more focused treatment and outcomes.

The Johns Hopkins inHealth program and centers of excellence will collect more information from patients. In addition to family history, the various research teams hope to analyze biological markers in blood and genetic hallmarks, and incorporate additional societal and physical environment history and information.

"Patients come to Johns Hopkins for the excellent and innovative care," Rosen said. "The medicine of tomorrow will require a deeper partnership with our patients who are willing to help move the research forward in all diseases."

A new National Health Mission Area at APL will focus on programs designed to predict and prevent illness, injury, and disease; rapidly detect and respond to changes in health status; restore and sustain health; and improve overall health and human performance. It builds on the laboratory's history of applying technology to solve critical challenges by focusing these capabilities to improve health and health care, says Sezin Palmer, executive for research and exploratory development at APL, who heads up the new mission area.

"We want to leverage APL's expertise to develop solutions across all care environments in a way that advances health and health care solutions for civilian, military, and veteran populations worldwide," Palmer said. "Our vision, shared by our Johns Hopkins University and School of Medicine partners, is to revolutionize health through science and engineering. It conveys the scale at which we aim to make an impact in this area. We are not simply working to improve the state of health and health care in our nation, but to fundamentally disrupt and truly revolutionize it."