- Vanessa Wasta
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Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute today announced an initiative aimed at advancing and expanding the science of precision medicine by combining the renowned clinical and medical expertise of Johns Hopkins with the unique stem cell technologies and research capabilities of the NYSCF Research Institute. The collaboration will accelerate Hopkins' pioneering Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to identify diagnostic disease markers with pinpoint accuracy to help researchers understand disease pathways and customize therapeutic approaches.
"Johns Hopkins is working intensively to realize the great promise of precision medicine for all those in our care, locally and globally," said Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels. "This significant new collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies and NYSCF moves us ever closer to that aim as we join together our far-reaching research capacities to advance knowledge and deliver better health outcomes for populations and people around the world."
This collaboration will also establish an unprecedented cache of human disease models available to researchers worldwide, thus promoting the real-world application of precision medicine and driving new discoveries and improvements to the study of human disease.
"Bloomberg Philanthropies' mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people," said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and a Johns Hopkins alumnus. "For years, Johns Hopkins University and the New York Stem Cell Foundation have shared that mission—and we're honored to deepen our partnerships with them as they explore new, innovative ways to save lives through the application of precision medicine."
Diseases manifest themselves differently in different patients. To understand the basis of these differences and to tailor treatments for specific patients, researchers need more-accurate biological tools. Stem cell models can be used to provide a "biological avatar" of a patient, allowing scientists and clinicians to better understand, define, and account for differences in individual patients and groups of patients.
The new initiative will use induced pluripotent stem cells to study disease characteristics in subgroups of patients, identifying markers that lead to varying disease manifestations. For example, by examining stem cells from seemingly similar patients with different forms of multiple sclerosis, scientists may be able to better understand the full range of the disease's mechanisms and pathways.
Johns Hopkins researchers believe that this advancement in the study and application of precision medicine has the potential to transform the diagnosis and management of many diseases. Often, what is now categorized as a single disease is actually made up of multiple diseases that display similar symptoms but require quite different therapies. Using a wide range of data sources, precision medicine seeks to better elucidate these differences so that doctors can treat patients with precisely targeted therapies. At Johns Hopkins, dozens of researchers are bringing this idea to reality across a spectrum of debilitating and life-altering diseases.
The Johns Hopkins Precision Medicine Initiative already includes 16 Precision Medicine Centers of Excellence, each focusing on a specific disease, and is now working to develop 50 Precision Medicine Centers in the next five years.
The process for this research will begin with the full consent of patients from the Precision Medicine Centers of Excellence at Johns Hopkins who wish to participate. Biological samples from patients in these centers will be collected by the NYSCF Research Institute, where scientists will create stem cell models of disease using the NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array, the world's first end-to-end automated system for generating human stem cells in a parallel, highly controlled process. Integrating robotics and machine learning, NYSCF's technology reprograms skin or blood cells into stem cells, differentiates them into disease-relevant cell types, and performs genome editing to unravel the genetic basis of disease.
"The NYSCF Research Institute has invented and scaled the most advanced methods of human cell manipulation, which is critical for studying disease at the level of the individual patient," explained NYSCF CEO Susan L. Solomon. "By combining our capabilities with Johns Hopkins' extensive clinical data and expertise, we will be able to develop effective, personalized therapies for patients suffering from diseases with a high unmet need."
The stem cells generated by NYSCF will be used to research and drive effective therapeutic and diagnostic developments in a wide range of diseases, including multiple sclerosis; Alzheimer's disease; chronic renal failure; and cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, pancreas, and bladder. These stem cell lines will reside in the NYSCF Repository and serve as a resource in perpetuity for the disease research community. This vast collection will provide scientists unprecedented insights into the biochemical and genetic mechanisms underlying different diseases and subtypes, thereby illuminating avenues for effective, tailored interventions.
"Stem cell science holds enormous potential for the treatment of a wide range of diseases," said Paul B. Rothman, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "By combining this approach with Johns Hopkins' groundbreaking work on precision medicine, we are creating a scientific powerhouse that will help us advance medicine and science at an even faster pace. I am excited to see the discoveries and innovations that will be produced by this collaboration."