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Duke hosts Precision Medicine World Conference

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Mary Klotman, MD

Hundreds of people representing a broad spectrum of healthcare, research and technology converged on Duke University on May 24 and 25 for the Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC). The gathering spotlighted the rapid growth of biomedical technologies spurring initiatives that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in healthcare.

The conference, co-hosted by Duke Health and Duke University, marked the first time the PMWC was held on the East Coast. This year’s theme was “Translating the Power of Precision Technologies into Better Health Care.” More than 30 sessions were held over the two days, featuring a total of more than 100 speakers from the healthcare and biotechnology sectors.

"These types of conferences are critical for us to share information and harness the power of precision medicine to change health,” said Mary Klotman, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine and vice chancellor for health affairs and dean-designate of the School of Medicine. “This is an exciting revolution. Yet it also can be frustrating, because we know where we’re going eventually but it’s going take a lot of work and understanding of the science to get there."

Geoffrey Ginsburg, MD, PhD, director of Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine and conference co-chair along with Chancellor Emeritus Ralph Snyderman, MD, said the meeting reflects a powerful convergence of important disciplines – ranging from genome sciences and data sciences to information technology, tissue and genetic engineering, behavioral science, and immune and cancer biology.

“That convergence is resulting in an unprecedented agenda that is driving precision medicine and research in ways that can impact both individual and population health,” Ginsburg said.

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), outlined NIH’s “All of Us” precision medicine initiative to study the impact of genes and environment. The study hopes to enroll 32,000 volunteers by the end of 2017 and 1 million by 2022. The data it collects will be accessible to researchers.

“This is a pretty exciting time to contemplate where we are in precision medicine and where we are going,” said Collins. Collins later received a PMWC Luminary Award, which recognizes recent contributions of leaders who have accelerated personalized medicine into the clinical marketplace. 

The conference was co-hosted by Ginsburg and Ralph Snyderman, MD, Chancellor Emeritus of Duke University and the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine.