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From the Chair - July 2014

Department of Medicine

This spring, the Department of Medicine and several of our partners on the Anschutz Medical Campus established a new Center for Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine and a similarly named division within our Department. We believe this initiative will make us better educators, researchers and health care providers.
The goal of personalized medicine is to target our care more precisely to the profile of the individual patient. Thanks to the latest technology and dedicated, focused research by immensely talented clinicians and scientists, we have an improved understanding of how our bodies function (or not) at the level of our molecules and genes.
Powered with that information, we are at the dawn of an era of medicine that offers great promise and hope. As physicians and researchers, we now know more about a patient’s condition sooner than ever. And with improved technology, we can harness this information to help us predict disease, prescribe specific treatments and provide better service to those who trust us with their health care. However, we have a lot to learn.
This effort combines the talents and resources of the Department of Medicine with the School of Medicine, the other Health Sciences Schools, the Cancer Center, the CCTSI, University Physicians Inc., University administration, University of Colorado Health and Children’s Hospital Colorado. Collaboration has been a key to success on this campus, yet this effort is unprecedented. It brings us even closer together and offers a profound opportunity to advance health care and medical science.
With this new center and division, we aim to develop a critical core of faculty, expand the intellectual expertise, develop new knowledge and build the infrastructure that will support faculty research and discoveries in personalized medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus.  Our Department will be the academic home for these talented faculty members in the new Division of Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine. The Center will link work by the molecular diagnostics laboratory (CMOCO), a DNA Bank, existing biorepositories and the recently formed data warehouse (COMPASS).
Personalized medicine is a significant change in our approach. We now can look at the small differences between us and examine how genetic variation, along with external factors like environment, diet and exercise, can determine risks of disease and outcomes of potential treatment. In years past, just collecting an individual’s genomic information was cost prohibitive. That’s no longer the case. The Personalized Medicine Coalition reports that the cost of sequencing a human genome in 2001 was $300 million and in 2011 the cost was $5,000.
Having the right tools is not enough, though. We must develop the science and create a home for the scientists and clinicians.  That’s why creating this new Division is essential to our success. We are recruiting experts who can help us corral and mine these vast data fields because the earlier we can identify risks, the better we can help our patients. The more we know about how a patient’s body will react to a therapy, the better we can target treatments that provide more help and do less harm. This is a crucial time in biomedical research and clinical care and we are determined to be at this frontier in medicine. This is how we and those in our care get better.
Best wishes,
David A. Schwartz, MD