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Phoenix Children's Hospital Creating $50M Molecular Medicine Institute

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Phoenix Children's Hospital said today that it has launched a new molecular and personalized medicine research institute that will focus first on childhood cancers but later will branch out into other research directions.

The Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine was created with an initial investment from namesake Matricaria, a member of the Phoenix Children's board, and former chairman and CEO of St. Jude Medical, and will include partners from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the University of Arizona's College of Medicine.

"Our goal is to bring genomics research to the forefront of pediatrics," Phoenix Children's Hospital President and CEO Robert Meyer said in a statement. "We also must address a fundamental flaw in traditional and personalized medicine – diagnosis and treatment of a disease based on clinical instead of genomic information," Meyer said.

The University of Arizona used a $1.3 million gift from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust to fund the creation of two endowed chairs, and Phoenix Children's has named two co-directors to lead the institute: Timothy Triche, director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at Children's Hospital, Los Angeles, and Robert Arceci, director of pediatric oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. As part of the collaborations behind the project, TGen medical oncologist Daniel Von Hoff also will join Triche and Arceci in the new institute.

Phoenix Children's said it plans to raise a total of $50 million to fund the venture, with support coming from philanthropic contributions and grant awards, and it will initially employ a staff of 50.

The partners said that the Matricaria Institute will be built around a medical and scientific, genomic, and clinical infrastructure.

The genomic infrastructure will include a range of capabilities, such as a biospecimen repository, DNA sequencing and analysis, and a CLIA lab for genomic profiling. It will work with TGen's bioinformatics resources to develop ways to integrate genomic, clinical, and biological data.

The medical and scientific research areas will include efforts to identify biomarkers for detecting disease and its progression and developing clinical treatment protocols that integrate genomics research.

The clinical infrastructure will be based on relationships with pharmaceutical companies for access to drugs and compounds and for conducting clinical trials.

"A challenge with existing molecular medicine programs is the amount of time that it takes to develop a new drug or treatment," said Meyer. "Our collaboration with TGen and University of Arizona opens the doors to making a portfolio of drugs and compounds available immediately," he explained.