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Healthcare Philanthropy Down to the Molecule

By Tom Watson on April 9, 20072 Comments

One of the biggest trends on healthcare these days is personalized medicine – a discipline that brings treatment to an individual based on her genetic makeup. It eschews the one size fits all style of "big medicine" and aims to bring research advances very quickly to the bedside.

Today’s announcement that the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies
have given $12.5 million to establish the Charles Bronfman Institute for
Personalized Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York fits this new trend.

“Personalized medicine could be the most
important scientific development of the 21st century,”said Charles Bronfman, chairman of the  Bronfman Philanthropies. “In an industry like medicine, where market
forces are slow to change, philanthropy must play the role of catalyst –
facilitating growth, inspiring awareness, and serving as a basis for change."

According to Mount Sinai,
Personalized medicine transforms the
traditional "one-size-fits-all" model of medicine by utilizing new
methods of molecular analysis to better manage a patient’s disease or
predisposition toward a disease. It represents a dramatic departure from
"evidence-based medicine," which is based on population studies and
has dominated medical principles for decades. While the evidence-based approach
does allow doctors to modify treatment strategies according to a particular
patient’s response, it relies on trial-and-error and lacks precision.
Personalized medicine, on the other hand, gives doctors an answer based on an
individual’s unique set of genes and thereby reduces uncertainty and error in
diagnosis and treatment.

The Bronfman gift will be used to fund an institution-wide Biobank at Mount Sinai and to
establish the Translational Biomedical Informatics Center, two areas of focus for
the Institute for Personalized Medicine, seed-funding Mount
Sinai’s overall $30 million personalized medicine initiative. The
grant will be paid out over a period of 10 years.

“Personalized medicine is something that will fundamentally alter the medical industry and will forever redefine the role of ubiquitous players such as insurance and pharmaceutical companies," said Dr. Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Bronfman Philanthropies.

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  • Jeffrey Solomon says:

    We hope to see an increase in the role of private philanthropy as a driver in personalized medicine and translational research. As the human genome intellectual capital intersects with clinical care, philanthropy, as a trailblazer, can oversome some of the obstacles of short term financial pressures combined with stagnant economic models. As has occured throughout the history of American philanthropy, there is a greater tolerance for the natural risks associated with discruptive technologies.

  • Tom Watson says:

    This is a fascinating development, I agree – and it’s nice to see some “risk capital” involved from a prominent philanthropy. If we don’t take chances in this area, we won’t see the advances…

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