The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has approved a $100,000 grant to explore the state’s readiness for a Center of Innovation (COI) to help capitalize on the growing field of personalized medicine.
NCBiotech awarded the grant to a statewide consortium of business and academic institutions, represented by Geoffrey Ginsburg, M.D., Ph.D., Duke University professor of medicine, executive director of the health system’s Center for Personalized Medicine and director of Genomic Medicine in the Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy.
The grant will help the group develop a business plan for an independent COI to accelerate the state’s efforts to commercialize personalized medicine. If that plan is subsequently approved, it will trigger a four-year, $2.5 million Phase II grant to launch the future COI.
Personalized medicine is a health-care model that uses information about an individual’s genes, environment, lifestyle and personal preferences to tailor treatments. It encourages people to participate in their own care. Scientists are learning more every day about unique characteristics that can make people respond very differently to foods, medications, life events and the environment, among other factors.
Ever-faster computers enable scientists to process huge volumes of information gleaned from massive databases and from individuals’ genomes. Sifting through more information than was ever before possible, researchers can now identify variations associated with diseases such as cancers – and, in some cases, develop individualized treatments.
By knowing in advance what will and won’t work for certain people, the hope is that care providers can reduce costs and avert side effects.
Personalized medicine is creating a new set of industries providing a wide range of products and services including data collection and processing, diagnostics and therapeutics.
“North Carolina’s knowledge-based economy is well-positioned to take advantage of the coming growth in personalized medicine,” said Mary Beth Thomas, Ph.D., vice president, Center of Innovation Program at NCBiotech.
“Our many research and industry assets will allow North Carolina to lead the advancement of personalized medicine. Preeminent research universities, more than 500 life-science companies, including the world’s largest cluster of contract research and testing organizations, combined with a strong information technology cluster, will serve as an exceptional platform for launching and growing a personalized-medicine sector.”
Ginsburg agreed those attributes make personalized medicine a significant economic-development opportunity for North Carolina. “We also have a strong health-provider and payer system and the second-largest medical reference laboratory," he added.
“This NCBiotech planning grant will allow us to bring together the key personalized-medicine stakeholders from across the state to develop a plan for collaborative solutions, public-private partnerships, and to develop a network that will accelerate the state's leadership in this important area of health care.
“I am very optimistic that this initiative will develop into a robust Center of Innovation for patient care for North Carolina and also for economic growth for the many entities in this state, both public and private, who are committed to personalized medicine as a strategy. NCBiotech has provided us an extraordinary opportunity to be a model for other states across the country.”
The convening members of the planning group for the COI included the Institute for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Center for Personalized Medicine at Duke, Gentris Corp., Pappas Ventures, Physicians Pharmacy Alliance, and the David H. Murdock Institute. Numerous other groups and individuals are expected to join during the next few months.
NCBiotech is a private, non-profit corporation supported by the N.C. General Assembly. Its mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business, education and strategic policy statewide.