San Diego’s life science and health community is leading the charge to bring precision medicine to San Diego. The San Diego Blood Bank (SDBB) has teamed up with Illumina— a global leader in DNA sequencing technology —to launch a community-driven genomics research study. The innovative pilot program will kick off at the 37th Annual Chargers Drive on November 24, where up to 100 preselected, consented volunteers will donate a tube of blood to have their whole genome sequenced. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about their individual results in the context of an educational event in March 2016 called Understand Your Genome®, hosted by Illumina.
The goal of the program aligns with President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) which would help drive a new era of medicine—one that is tailored to an individual’s genes, environment and lifestyle, so that every patient will have the right treatment at the right time. Individuals will be invited to contribute their genomic and health data to serve as a unique resource for the discovery of new targets in fostering health and treating disease. Organizers hope the pilot will be used as a model to enable other blood centers to follow suit and drive precision medicine forward.
“This pilot program fits with our blood center’s mission to engage our community in the future of our nation’s health,” said David Wellis, PhD, CEO for the San Diego Blood Bank.
To bring precision medicine to its full potential, researchers will need to assemble a substantial database of genetic information in order to find patterns in diseases and genes, and discover ways to target treatment.
“It makes the nation’s blood center network a natural fit,” says Dawn Barry, Vice President of Applied Genomics at Illumina. “As part of the pilot program, the SDBB will conduct the research study, while leveraging Illumina’s expertise in genetic sequencing technology to help educate and engage the community.”
Barry explains why San Diego is the ideal city to move this pilot program forward.
Why are blood centers the ideal partner to lead this pilot program?
Precision medicine is not just for the community, it should include the community. Doing so not only helps protect the interests and honor the needs of individuals, but may also inspire individuals to participate directly in research. The nation’s blood centers are an established, trusted network for responsible community engagement in genomics and precision medicine. They have the secure, established infrastructure and the experience to reach all areas of their diverse communities. That makes them an ideal partner to gather samples on a segment of the population that is outside of a health care setting—the group that represents the general healthy population.
As the global leader in genomic sequencing technology, Illumina believes in improving health by unlocking the power of the genome. Education and engagement are the greatest tools for driving intentional change. By leveraging our expertise and technology, we can educate and empower San Diegans to be a part of precision medicine. Our flagship event, Understand Your Genome (UYG), provides an experiential education in genomics through personal genome sequencing, and helps individuals understand how access to that health information can help them and their physician make more informed decisions in the future.
What is Illumina’s role in the pilot program?
In addition to sequencing and return of results of the participants’ genomes, Illumina will provide the educational and personal component to understanding genomics and how it all ties in to improving health for individuals and the community. Community engagement begins at the Chargers Drive, which was attended by more than 3,500 San Diegans last year. Illumina will be hosting the Genome Zone where the community will be able to interact with and learn about DNA and its implications for health and wellness. Those participating in genome sequencing will continue their education through email and video communications leading up to a March 2016 UYG event. At UYG, Illumina furthers participants’ education on what their genome means and how its use in research could have an impact on society. Participants are also provided access to their genome through the MyGenome app, an Illumina-developed visualization tool that will allow them to explore their genomic data.
Why should San Diego take the lead in driving genomics research forward?
San Diego collaborates to compete. This city has a vibrant life science community, innovative biotech and telecom, some of the top researchers and doctors in the world, and a few of the most progressive health institutions such as Scripps and UCSD. These different sectors are working together to improve health for all, starting with our community. This collaboration will not only benefit human health but will continue to drive a distinct economy for the region. This SDBB pilot is precision medicine in action. It’s about starting this pilot here and creating a movement to improve health everywhere. What a lovely time and what an excellent opportunity to be inclusive like that.