SUNY Downstate Launches the Institute for Genomic Health

Program to Engage the Brooklyn Community in Better Understanding the Genomic Factors of Illness and Well-Being

SUNY Downstate Medical Center has established the Institute for Genomic Health (IGH) to exploring the role of genomic factors in risk and resilience to illness. The IGH operates under the leadership of Michele T. Pato, MD, professor of psychiatry, and Carlos N. Pato, MD, dean of the College of Medicine.

“Great strides have been made over recent years in understanding the role that genes play in determining health, but it is critical that such research includes diverse community representation if we are ever to solve the problem of disparities in healthcare delivery,” said John F. Williams, Jr., MD, EdD, MPH, FCCM, president of SUNY Downstate. “I am confident that the Institute for Genomic Health will go a long way towards addressing this pressing issue.”

“I look forward to collaborating with SUNY Downstate colleges, departments, clinicians, and researchers, as well as community leaders and lay people, to further the mission of the Institute,” said Institute Director Dr. Michele Pato. “We want to improve the health and well-being of all people by focusing on the genetic-based risk of illness, but we also want to explore what genes and a person’s environment do to keep us healthy.”

Research by the Drs. Pato over the past 30 years has focused on genomic psychiatry with an emphasis on population-based genetic studies. They have sought to identify genetic and environmental factors that contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

As one of its major efforts, the Institute for Genomic Health is launching Genomic Psychiatry Cohort research at SUNY Downstate. The Genomic Psychiatry Cohort, a database of approximately 40,000 individuals, was designed to provide the necessary population-based sample for large-scale genomic studies.

“A well-recognized limitation of current genomic research is the lack of adequate sample sizes,” noted Dr. Michele Pato. “The Genomic Psychiatry Cohort aims to deal with this challenge.”

“In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, which seeks to take into account individual differences in peoples’ genetic makeup, among other unique characteristics,” she said. “The Institute for Genomic Health is committed to supporting this innovative approach to medicine.”

Downstate’s Institute for Genomic Health extends research formerly conducted by the Patos at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, with which they continue to collaborate. The new research at Downstate will engage the Brooklyn community in ongoing efforts to better understand medical disorders and how to effectively treat them.

Source: SUNY Downstate
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