UF Health receives $3.7 million to bring genomic medicine to more Floridians

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Personalized medicine at University of Florida Health celebrates its first successful year helping heart patients with news of major funding from the National Institutes of Health that will advance the program to more patients and health care providers across the state.

A $3.7 million grant to UF Health is one of only three awarded by the National Human Genome Research Institute to support projects that show how patients’ individual genetic profiles may be used to better tailor clinical treatments.

Since the UF Health Personalized Medicine Program launched, more than 1,000 heart patients have benefitted from a routine genetic test that can reveal preferred medications to prevent heart attacks and strokes following certain heart procedures. The NIH funding will allow the program to extend this capability over the next four years, helping doctors better prescribe other medications.

Principal investigator Julie A. Johnson, Pharm.D., director of the UF Health Personalized Medicine Program led by the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute, will serve as national chair for the NHGRI Genomic Medicine Pilot Demonstration network, which includes projects at Duke University and Mount Sinai and a coordinating center at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We are pleased to be able to continue UF Health’s role as one of the nation’s ‘early adopters’ of genomic medicine. This funding will be the catalyst that propels and expands our work within and beyond our academic health center to help the clinical world incorporate genetic information as a routine part of patient care,” said Johnson, a distinguished professor of pharmacy and medicine and director of the UF College of Pharmacy’s Center for Pharmacogenomics.

In June 2012, UF Health incorporated a simple blood test for cardiology patients that provides genetic information indicating how an individual will likely respond to clopidogrel, an anticlotting drug commonly prescribed following a catheterization for blocked heart vessels. Of the more than 1,000 patients tested, approximately 28 percent have a genetic variation for which a different medication is recommended. Those patients now have their genetic test results stored in the UF Health electronic medical record system, which will alert doctors to the recommended medication if a prescription for clopidogrel were written in the future.

Leadership of the UF Personalized Medicine Program
Left to right: Michael Bertulfo, program assistant; Ben Burkley, Center for Pharmacogenomics; Taimour Langaee, Center for Pharmacogenomics; Aniwaa Owusu Obeng, PGY2 pharmacogenomic resident; Amanda Elsey, program manager; Julie A. Johnson, program director; David R. Nelson, CTSI director; David Nessl, UF PathLabs; Kim Newsom, UF PathLabs; Ben Staley, Shands Pharmacy (photo by Jesse Jones)

With the new grant, Johnson’s multidisciplinary team will continue to expand the Personalized Medicine Program. The team will build on the program’s infrastructure — which facilitates the complex clinical, laboratory and information flows — to introduce routine genetic testing at UF Health for additional medications for which strong evidence links specific genetic variations to how the body responds to a drug. The program will next focus on medications for pediatric cancer patients and adult and pediatric gastroenterology patients.

The new funding also will enable the program to extend genomic medicine beyond UF Health. Beginning this year, the UF Health program will help Orlando Health prepare two of its cardiology practices to begin standard genetic testing for clopidogrel in 2014. The program will then work with the Florida State University College of Medicine to introduce similar genetic testing within its statewide network of community-based physician practices.

To complement its clinical implementations, the program will develop training opportunities to prepare health care professionals, health sciences students and patients for a future in which genomic medicine is commonplace.

“The Personalized Medicine Program at the University of Florida represents a transformative initiative in health care for the people of Florida,” said Wayne Jenkins, M.D., M.P.H., president of Orlando Health Physician Partners and senior vice president of Orlando Health. “We strongly believe that genomic medicine is part of the future of medical care in the community, and we are pleased to partner with UF to help build our own capacity to strengthen its clinical and translational application.”

UF Health Pathology Laboratories, which developed the infrastructure to process the blood samples from patients, will offer its services and expertise for the program’s expansion at UF Health and to external partners. UF Health PathLabs translates, interprets and transmits genetic test results back to the electronic medical record system for use in clinical care — typically within 24 to 48 hours of receiving blood samples in the lab.

“UF Health was the perfect testing ground for understanding how to execute the program and get it to work,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., UF assistant vice president for collaborative research in the life sciences and director of the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “Now we can offer that technology and know-how out to the state. And that is a fundamental mission of the CTSI ― to build infrastructures for implementing research findings throughout health care systems and community hospitals in Florida.”

As the Personalized Medicine Program expands, three guiding principles will continue to shape its approach: creating a regulatory body to determine when scientific evidence warrants changes in clinical practice; providing alerts for health care providers through electronic medical record systems; and developing a one-time, evidence-based genetic test that screens for hundreds of genetic variations that can be used across a patient’s lifespan.

“Julie Johnson and her team are a striking example of the kinds of advances we are making for the benefit of patients throughout our state. We are both dreamers and doers — our collaborative approach allows us not only to envision what the future of medicine will bring, but also to put that vision into practice and help others do the same,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., UF senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF Health.

The work is supported by the NIH under award number U01HG007269 (National Human Genome Research Institute), and it builds on the infrastructure created by the Personalized Medicine Program with institutional support from UF and initial funding from the NIH under award numbers UL1 TR000064 (National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences) and U01 GM074492 (National Institute of General Medical Sciences).

For media inquiries call Claire Baralt at 352-273-8211 or email cbaralt@ufl.edu.

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