Rady Children's Hospital
Rady Children’s Hospital in Kearny Mesa. File photo

The Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine announced Monday that it has named six life science researchers to serve on its new Scientific Advisory Board.

The panel will provide evaluation and guidance for the institute’s work, which began in July 2016 with a mission of working in the area of diagnosis, treatment and clinical care for newborns and children with rare, life-threatening diseases. The institute provides diagnoses through rapid whole genome sequencing, according to Rady.

The board includes a Nobel laureate and heads of renowned research institutes. None have ties to the institute or to Rady Children’s Hospital to promote objectivity, according to Rady.

They are:

  • Dr. James R. Downing, president and chief executive of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He is an expert in molecular diagnostics and a pediatric cancer researcher.
  • Elizabeth Blackburn, president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for discovering the molecular nature of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving genetic information, and for co-discovering telomerase, an enzyme that maintains telomere ends.
  • George Church, a professor at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. He helped found projects that serve as the world’s only open-access personal precision medicine data. His innovations in synthetic biology have been the basis for launching several companies.
  • Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, a professor at the University of Connecticut, orthopedic surgeon and biochemical engineer who pioneered regenerative engineering science involving knee and shoulder issues.
  • Dr. Thomas R. Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health and current president of Mindstrong Health. He is a neuroscientist and psychiatrist.
  • Dr. Isaac Kohane, professor and chairman of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School.

“Each of these brilliant scientists is an authority in their respective field,” said Dr. Stephen Kingsmore, president and chief executive of the institute. “By sharing their expertise and leadership with us, they will play a vital role in helping to calibrate our goals and oversee our progress in advancing pediatric genomic medicine.”

The institute has completed testing and interpretation of the genomes of more than 240 children enrolled in research studies, as of November. More than a third of the patients have received a diagnosis and over 65 percent of those have benefited from an immediate change in clinical care in response to the diagnosis, according to Rady.

—City News Service