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Paradigm for personalized medicine
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—"It's our vision to be leaders in the nation in bringing high-throughput-screening diagnostics to clinical care, to bring personalized medicine to the masses," says Dr. Jay Hess, chair of the department of pathology at the University of Michigan (U-M) Medical School and a co-founder of Paradigm, a joint venture, nonprofit company for advanced DNA diagnostics.
Hess' "partner in crime"—or more accurately in Paradigm—Dr. Robert Penny, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Paradigm and International Genomics Consortium (IGC), says Paradigm's mission is to "create a new paradigm to bring personalized medicine to patient care in a robust fashion." He believes that the two partner organizations have "different but complementary strengths" in using genetic information to understand and treat disease that make Paradigm "greater than the sum of its parts."
Initially, Paradigm will offer services to oncologists and oncology groups, pathologists, academic medical centers and clinical trial groups studying personalized medicine regimens. Ultimately extending into other disease groups, Paradigm will give doctors and healthcare organizations anywhere access to whole-gene and multi-gene sequencing and molecular diagnostics. The company will also help support clinical trials at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) and other health systems.
Penny, who is launching his sixth startup company, one that he calls the "capstone of my experience," says that his colleagues who do translational diagnostics advised him to contact Hess a year ago. Although initially skeptical of launching a startup company with a university, Penny was convinced that U-M would be a good partner in responding quickly to opportunities in business development.
"U-M brings incredible breadth of intellectually successful people who are accomplished and inventive," Penny says. "They've defined what we know about prostate cancer. They do sequencing of cancer patients and match them up with the best therapies and have commercialization capabilities." Paradigm complements other DNA services offered by UMHS, including the MLabs reference laboratory and the research-oriented DNA Sequencing Core.
UMHS, a 160-year-old institution for advanced patient care, research to improve human health and education of physicians and medical scientists, includes the U-M Hospitals & Health Centers, with its three hospitals and dozens of outpatient health centers and clinics throughout Michigan; the U-M Medical School with its Faculty Group Practice and research laboratories; shared administrative services; and the Michigan Health Corp. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized 18 years on the U.S. News & World Report honor roll of "America's Best Hospitals." The U-M Medical School has total research funding of more than $490 million.
Hess believes that Paradigm "allows us to harness the power of genetic information to guide patient therapy and improve outcomes." He adds that, "IGC has a proven track record of bringing molecular diagnostics to market, yet shares our nonprofit, patient-focused vision."
IGC, a nonprofit medical research organization formed by veteran genetic researchers to expand upon the discoveries of the Human Genome Project and other systematic sequencing efforts, played a key role in compiling the Cancer Genome Atlas, a catalog of genes known to be involved in cancer. IGC combines genomic research, bioinformatics and diagnostic technologies to fight against cancer and other complex genetic diseases through standardizing the collection of properly consented tissues of interest, as well as the molecular characterization of these tissues and standardization in the representation and analysis of these results. IGC participates in the translation of genomic discoveries to improve patient care and increase the speed in which new diagnostic, prognostic and predictive testing and their associated new drug and treatment regimens are developed. It brings molecular mechanisms to commercialization.
"Paradigm will combine our expertise in accessing evidence and put it in a report form for oncologists when patients fail in conventional therapy," Hess says. He suspects that there will be many more "hybrids" of companies and academia in the future and that they will deliver "a lot of value."
"Together, with nimbleness and passion, we'll accelerate more precise medicine by driving discovery and translation, getting patients into the best clinical trials and developing the best therapies," Penny concludes.
The company, which launched in August, expects to have tests available by January 2013.