CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT has announced that the Carlos Slim Foundation has contributed $74 million to launch the second phase of SIGMA, a biomedical partnership established between the two organizations in 2010. SIGMA aims to harness genomic medicine for the benefit of Latin America and the world by enabling greater access to genomic medicine in Mexico and Latin America by encouraging programs that address health issues of relevance to the region and to enhance genomic research capacity in the region.
“The Broad Institute is a world leader in genomic medicine and shares our own vision for overcoming some of the greatest challenges and solutions in public health,” said Carlos Slim Hélu in a press release. “I am convinced that the discoveries we make together will strongly impact the population in Mexico and worldwide.”
The Broad Institute, the Carlos Slim Health Institute and the National Institute of Genomic Medicine of Mexico will work together on this partnership, which will be undertaken in coordination with scientists from Mexican institutions such as the National Autonomous University and the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition, led by the Carlos Slim Center for Health Research at the Broad Institute.
“Most genomic research has focused on European or European-derived populations. It’s like doing science with one eye closed. There are many discoveries that can only be made by studying non-European populations,” said Dr. Eric Lander, president and director of the Broad Institute. “In addition to the scientific importance of studies in Latin America, it is essential that the benefits of the genomic revolution be accessible to people throughout the Americas and the world.”
This partnership began with the SIGMA study, funded by an initial donation from the Carlos Slim Foundation of $65 million, and enabled the scientists and researchers involved to discover a common genetic variant that predisposes Latin American people to type 2 diabetes, the gene for medullary cystic kidney disease type 1 and new genetic drivers for breast cancer, lymphoma, head and neck cancer and other cancer types.
SIGMA 2 will seek to develop new biomedical approaches for some of the leading public health issues, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and kidney disease. The project 2 will focus on translating the discoveries made in the SIGMA study into clinical impact, namely by developing diagnostic tools for breast cancer and diabetes, completing the genetic analysis of the focus diseases, creating therapeutic roadmaps to guide the creation of new treatments and initiating an effort to target medullary cystic kidney disease type 1. The initiative will originally involve scientists from 125 organizations in both the United States and Mexico, with the intent to increase the range of the collaboration from there.
“In just a few years, our work together with our colleagues in Mexico has been enormously productive and enriching to the scientific community,” Lander commented in a statement. “It’s now time to expand this international partnership so that it truly benefits our children — both in Mexico and in the United States.”