Children's Memorial, TGen announce partnership

03/12/04

Collaboration will accelerate research into childhood diseases

CHICAGO -- Children's Memorial Institute for Education and Research and The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), of Phoenix, Ariz., today announced a partnership aimed at conducting cutting-edge genomic research into childhood illnesses and better defining their relationship to adult diseases.

The agreement partners TGen's computational and genomics technology -- ranked among the most powerful in the world -- and scientific expertise with one of the leading children's medical research institutes in the country. It also pairs organizations run by two internationally renowned researchers in the area of cancer genomics.

"This partnership will enable us to build a world-class genomics program that will profoundly impact human health and accelerate the rate of discovery into the molecular components of childhood diseases," said Mary J.C. Hendrix, Ph.D., president and scientific director for the Chicago-based Children's Memorial Institute for Education and Research, and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

Hendrix said the two institutes would conduct critical research on a broad spectrum of problems, including brain disorders such as schizophrenia, behavioral disorders, autism, multiple sclerosis, cancer, developmental defects, and autoimmune diseases. Employing the latest in DNA microarray technology, research will focus on detecting genetic markers, and finding ways to move discoveries from the laboratory into the clinical setting as soon as possible.

"Our collaboration with Children's Memorial further strengthens TGen's mission to advance research in an expedited manner. The sequence of the human genome has fueled a rapid increase in gene discovery and gene analysis and our work with Children's Memorial will hopefully answer a number of questions surrounding childhood disease," said Jeffrey Trent, Ph.D., TGen's president and scientific director.

Genomics is the study and interpretation of genomes, or gene sequences, and their function. Progress in the last decade has allowed scientists to examine the genes that are expressed or suppressed in cells and compare the differences between normal cells and those that contribute to disease. TGen provides Children's Memorial's researchers access to a range of genomic, genetic and proteomic technologies, bioinformatics, high-throughput sequencing, and gene expression profiling capabilities.

"Our partnership with TGen recognizes the critical role that science and technology play in unraveling the genetic components of common and complex children's diseases, which could be translated to the early detection and management of related adult diseases," Hendrix said. "Our hope is to provide new methods of diagnosis and treatment, leading to individualized medicine for patients."

Hendrix, who took over the reins at Children's Memorial's research institute in January, is an internationally respected cancer researcher whose work includes the molecular classification of aggressive tumor cells, which has led to the discovery of their embryonic-like properties, called plasticity -- a major insight into the basic mechanisms underlying cancer progression.

Before founding TGen in 2002, Trent served for 10 years at the world's largest biomedical research institute -- the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. There, he founded and directed the laboratory division of the federal agency in charge of coordinating and finalizing the Human Genome Project. His research focuses on genetic changes that increase one's risk for developing cancer.

Children's Memorial Institute for Education and Research is one of 13 interdisciplinary research centers and institutes of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and all principal investigators at the institute are full-time faculty members at Feinberg. The institute is the research arm of Children's Memorial Medical Center.

TGen's mission is to make and translate genomic discoveries into advances in human health. "Translational genomics research" is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project to apply them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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