Statewide Initiative Sets Personalized Medicine as Goal

Wisconsin may soon become a leader in personalized medicine, a concept that could revolutionize health care. With this approach, physicians analyze an individual's genome, or entire genetic make-up to identify what diseases he or she might be susceptible to, then suggest strategies to prevent the problems or treat them most effectively.

With the backing of Gov. Jim Doyle, the Badger State has set its sights on making personalized medicine a reality by creating the Wisconsin Genomics Initiative. The collaboration brings together, for the first time, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Marshfield Clinic, the Medical College of Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee.
"Each of these partners is a leader in one or more areas needed for this initiative to be successful," says Paul DeLuca, UW School of Medicine and Public Health vice dean.

Marshfield Clinic possesses the nation's largest bio-bank, consisting of DNA samples from 20,000 individuals. The samples, often from extended families, have been linked electronically to medical records for 29 years. UW-Milwaukee, with its on-going research in urban health care, will provide additional samples representing diverse populations.

The Medical College of Wisconsin is one of the top human genetic research centers in the country. It will perform DNA sequencing to identify genes, mutations and other markers hidden in each DNA sample.

"This will produce a monstrous amount of data that we will analyze at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health," says DeLuca.

The UW School of Medicine and Public Health Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics boasts one of the strongest statistical genetics groups in the nation as well as top computational scientists. By correlating the genomic data and information from the medical records, the team will identify patterns associated with the incidence of diseases.

"Knowing these patterns will be the key to personalized medicine," DeLuca says. "With this knowledge, we can anticipate a new era of medicine."