Personal best

Personal best

UF Health personalized medicine program to expand

By Claire Baralt
Photo by Maria Belen Farias

Photo by Maria Belen Farias

Personalized medicine at UF Health celebrated its first successful year helping heart patients with news of major funding from the National Institutes of Health that will advance the program to more patients and health care providers across the state.

A $3.7 million grant to UF Health was one of only three awarded by the National Human Genome Research Institute to support projects that show how patients’ individual genetic profiles may be used to better tailor clinical treatments.

Since the UF Health Personalized Medicine Program launched, more than 1,000 heart patients have benefited from a routine genetic test that can reveal preferred medications to prevent heart attacks and strokes after certain heart procedures. The NIH funding will allow the program to extend this capability over the next four years, helping doctors better prescribe other medications.

Principal investigator Julie A. Johnson, Pharm.D., director of the UF Health Personalized Medicine Program led by the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute, will serve as national chair for the NHGRI Genomic Medicine Pilot Demonstration network, which includes projects at Duke University and Mount Sinai and a coordinating center at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We are pleased to be able to continue UF Health’s role as one of the nation’s ‘early adopters’ of genomic medicine. This funding will be the catalyst that propels and expands our work within and beyond our academic health center to help the clinical world incorporate genetic information as a routine part of patient care,” said Johnson, dean of the College of Pharmacy.

In June 2012, UF Health incorporated a simple blood test for cardiology patients that provides genetic information indicating how an individual will likely respond to clopidogrel, an anti-clotting drug commonly prescribed following a catheterization for blocked heart vessels. Of the more than 1,000 patients tested, approximately 28 percent have a genetic variation for which a different medication is recommended. Those patients now have their genetic test results stored in the UF Health electronic medical record system, which will alert doctors to the recommended medication if a prescription for clopidogrel were written in the future.

With the new grant, Johnson’s multidisciplinary team will continue to expand the Personalized Medicine Program. The program will next focus on medications for pediatric cancer patients and adult and pediatric gastroenterology patients.

The new funding also will enable the program to extend genomic medicine beyond UF Health. Beginning this year, the UF Health program will help Orlando Health prepare two of its cardiology practices to begin standard genetic testing for clopidogrel in 2014. The program will then work with the Florida State University College of Medicine to introduce similar genetic testing within its statewide network of community-based physician practices.

“UF Health was the perfect testing ground for understanding how to execute the program and get it to work,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., UF assistant vice president for collaborative research in the life sciences and director of the CTSI. “Now we can offer that technology and know-how to the state. And that is a fundamental mission of the CTSI — to build infrastructures for implementing research findings throughout health care systems and community hospitals in Florida.”