UCHealth means business with personalized medicine initiative

The DNA Biorepository opens the door to spreading success to many more specialties and patients.
January 22nd, 2016

UCHealth is on a mission to put disease in the crosshairs of medical researchers and clinicians.

The Center for Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine (BIPM) is working to unlock the genetic codes that are often at the root of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other conditions that today plague millions of people.

Kathleen Barnes
Kathleen Barnes, director of the BIPM, took over the position at CU on a full-time basis in October.

The BIPM is now collecting DNA samples from patients who give their consent. The samples, stored in the DNA Biorepository on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, will give researchers a golden opportunity to look for genetic patterns that indicate an increased risk of disease. That information could lead to new therapies that target an individual’s specific genetic makeup and improve their chances of living productive lives.

“Personalized” or “precision” medicine has already revolutionized care for cancer patients. For example, therapies that target specific genetic mutations have greatly extended the lives of stage 4 lung cancer patients who not long ago would have survived only a matter of months. The DNA Biorepository opens the door to spreading those successes to many more specialties and patients.

The personalized medicine approach is not simple. It requires sophisticated technology to decode DNA samples as well as process and store vast amounts of information within them. The work of the BIPM has only begun. But the potential benefits are straightforward, says the center’s director, Kathleen Barnes, PhD.

“We’re building the capacity and tools we need to develop a better system and process for diagnosing and predicting disease,” she said. “We want to be able to say to patients, ‘If you have this disease, this is the therapy that will work best for you.’”

Read more about personalized medicine at UCHealth

About the author

Tyler Smith is a freelance writer based in metro Denver.