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About SickKids

June 19, 2012

New SickKids Centre for Genetic Medicine targets the advancement of individualized medicine

TORONTO – “Medicine has always been personal, but has never been individual until now, where we have the ability to make it individualized.” -- Dr. Ronald Cohn

The SickKids Centre for Genetic Medicine is bringing together the brightest minds in patient care, education, policy and research with the goal of one day making individualized treatment a standard of care for all children.

Genetic medicine can revolutionize care by using the information in a patient’s own DNA to diagnose and treat illness and disease. At its best, it could have the predictive power to prevent or delay the onset of disease and possibly reduce harming side-effects that are a current reality of certain treatments.

“The scientific and medical community is on the forefront of transforming how we care for our young patients,” says Mary Jo Haddad, President and CEO of SickKids. “Through the Centre for Genetic Medicine, SickKids is poised to lead the way.”     

The Centre for Genetic Medicine has the potential to have a significant impact on the health of children, as 90 per cent of chronic diseases have a genetic component and known genetic diseases account for over half of hospital admissions.

“The Centre for Genetic Medicine is a wonderful example of what our government’s Action Plan for Health Care is all about,” says Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “Working towards attaining the best available evidence as the driving force behind the adoption of best practices in the field will ensure patients receive the best possible care.”

The Centre’s co-director Dr. Ronald Cohn, an internationally leading expert in genetics and neuromuscular disorders, will be joining SickKids from the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“I have seen an explosion of genetic knowledge over the last decade. We now need to fulfill the promise of impacting medical care for patients at SickKids and beyond,” says Cohn. “As one of the largest and most influential paediatric hospitals in the world SickKids is the obvious place to roll out what promises to be the next great leap in health care, namely individualized medicine.”

The centre’s co-director is renowned autism researcher and genome scientist Dr. Stephen Scherer, GlaxoSmithKline-Canadian Institutes of Health Research Endowed Chair in Genome Sciences at SickKids and Director of the University of Toronto McLaughlin Centre.

“The perfect storm of unparalleled advances in genome sequencing technology and information science, and a captivated hospital striving for new ways to move forward in medical treatment, bring us to this important day,” says Scherer.

To catalyze the process, SickKids will use innovation and cutting-edge technologies. The hospital is collaborating with Life Technologies to be able to rapidly and accurately sequence genomes.

“SickKids has an unrivalled history of being at the forefront of paediatric medicine and making seminal scientific discoveries that have benefited children all over the world,” said Mark Stevenson, President and COO of Life Technologies. “We are honoured that its leaders have chosen the Ion Proton Sequencer as the primary technology to catalyze their latest endeavour in genome sequencing in an effort to push the boundaries of science and disease research.”

SickKids has already made its mark on the genetic map. It has been a trailblazer in genetics; in 1947 it was Ontario’s first hospital to establish a department of clinical genetics, the division of molecular diagnostics has grown to one of the largest DNA diagnostic facilities in the world, and in the 1990s it established Canada’s first human genome research centre. Then seminal discoveries such as finding the genes that cause muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and forms of autism followed, impacting individuals and families around the world. Now in 2012, it is primed to take genetic medicine into a new frontier.

About The Hospital for Sick Children
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally.  Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized child and family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is proud of its vision for Healthier Children. A Better World. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca. Follow us on Twitter (@SickKidsNews) and Instagram (@SickKidsToronto).

For more information, please contact:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca

Caitlin McNamee-Lamb
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 1436
email: caitlin.mcnamee-lamb@sickkids.ca