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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, OHSU create joint research co-laboratory to advance precision medicine

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and OHSU today announced a joint collaboration to improve patient care by focusing research on highly complex sets of biomedical data, and the tools to interpret them.

The OHSU-PNNL Precision Medicine Innovation Co-Laboratory, called PMedIC, will provide a comprehensive ecosystem for scientists to utilize integrated 'omics, data science and imaging technologies in their research in order to advance precision medicine — an approach to disease treatment that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle for each person.

"This effort brings together the unique and complementary strengths of Oregon's only academic medical center, which has a reputation for innovative clinical trial designs, and a national laboratory with an international reputation for basic science and technology development in support of biological applications," said OHSU President Joe Robertson. "Together, OHSU and PNNL will be able to solve complex problems in biomedical research that neither institution could solve alone."

"The leading biomedical research and clinical work performed at OHSU pairs well with PNNL's world-class expertise in data science and mass spectrometry analyses of proteins and genes," said PNNL Director Steven Ashby. "By combining our complementary capabilities, we will make fundamental discoveries and accelerate our ability to tailor healthcare to individual patients."

The co-laboratory will strengthen and expand the scope of existing interactions between OHSU and PNNL that already include cancer, regulation of the cardiovascular function, immunology and infection, and brain function, and add new collaborations in areas from metabolism to exposure science. The collaboration brings together the two institution's strengths in data science, imaging and integrated 'omics, which explores how genes, proteins and various metabolic products interact. The term arises from research that explores the function of key biological components within the context of the entire cell — genomics for genes, proteomics for proteins, and so on.

"PNNL has a reputation for excellence in the technical skill sets required for precision medicine, specifically advanced 'omic' platforms that measure the body's key molecules — genes, proteins and metabolites — and the advanced data analysis methods to interpret these measurements," said Karin Rodland, director of biomedical partnerships at PNNL. "Pairing these capabilities with the outstanding biomedical research environment and innovative clinical trials at OHSU will advance the field of precision medicine and lead to improved patient outcomes."

In the long term, OHSU and PNNL aim to foster a generation of biomedical researchers fluent in all the aspects of the science underlying precision medicine, from clinical trials to molecular and computational biology to bioengineering and technology development — a new generation of scientists skilled in translating basic science discoveries to clinical care.

"Just as we have many neuroscientists focused on brain science at OHSU, we have many researchers taking different approaches on the path toward the goal of precision medicine," said Mary Heinricher, associate dean of basic research, OHSU School of Medicine. "I believe one of the greatest opportunities of this collaboration is for OHSU graduate students and post-docs to have exposure to new technologies and collaborations with PNNL. This will help train the next generation of scientists."

OHSU and PNNL first collaborated in 2015, when they formed the OHSU-PNNL Northwest Co-Laboratory for Integrated 'Omics and were designated a national Metabolomics Center for the Undiagnosed Disease Network, an NIH-funded national network designed to identify underlying mechanisms of very rare diseases. In 2017, the two organizations partnered on a National Cancer Institute-sponsored effort to become a Proteogenomic Translational Research Center focused on a complex form of leukemia.

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