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Pennsylvania Health Department Funds Translational 'Omics Projects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Pennsylvania's Department of Health has awarded several million dollars in funding to research institutes and clinical science centers in the state that seek to translate genomics research for clinical use.

Award winners included Geisinger Clinic, the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University, and Carnegie Mellon University.

The grants are part of Pennsylvania DOH's Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program (CURE), which has recently awarded $15.3 million to nearly a dozen research projects, including translational studies focused on applying genomics to cancer and other disorders.

Geisinger Clinic won a $2.9 million CURE grant to fund a project that will delve into the utility of using genomic data in population screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The researchers plan to use knowledge of genetic risk factors to improve screening for AAA, the 13th leading cause of death in the US.

Another team at Geisinger Clinic won $1 million for a study focused on diagnostic-prognostic testing in patients who are at high risk for esophageal cancer.

UPenn received a $2.8 million award for a study that will seek to translate genomics into measures for preventing and treating several types of cancer.

Thomas Jefferson University was awarded a $744,000 grant to study occult tumor burden as a marker for stratifying cancer therapies. The researchers will develop the clinical evidence required to commercialize a molecular test that can identify colon cancer patients who are at risk of developing recurrent disease and who will benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.

Carnegie Mellon University received a $984,000 award for a two-year study of ways to expand the Omnyx Integrated Digital Pathology system from GE Healthcare for use in translational research studies.

"Physicians treating prostate cancer and pediatric liver cancer tell us that they have few, if any, tools to help them differentiate between tumors that demand aggressive treatment and those that don't pose an immediate threat to patient survival," Robert Murphy, director of Carnegie Mellon's Lane Center for Computational Biology, said in a statement.

"We expect to show that automated image analysis technology can be used to detect certain subcellular changes that could help physicians identify dangerous tumors and determine the best ways to treat them," Murphy said.