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Scripps Spearheads New Association to Create Online 'Genomic Medicine University' to Educate Physicians

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By Bernadette Toner

The Scripps Translational Science Institute is spearheading an effort to create an online educational program for credentialing practicing physicians in genomic medicine, and hopes to launch its first courses before the end of the year.

The initiative, called the Association for Genomic Medicine, was created in January with a $600,000 grant from the Life Technologies Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Life Technologies.

Eric Topol, the director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, is leading the effort. This past weekend at the Scripps Future of Genomic Medicine conference, Topol said that the AGM has put in place an accreditation board comprised of leading researchers across a broad range of medical disciplines, including cardiology, oncology, pediatrics, neurology, radiology, rheumatology, internal medicine, and pharmacogenomics.

During the conference Topol cited a recent survey by Medco and the American Medical Association of nearly 11,000 physicians that found that 98 percent are aware that patient genetic profiles may influence therapy, but only 10 percent believe they are "adequately informed" about the use of genetic information in practice.

Citing this study as evidence of the clear need for physician education in this area, Topol said that the goal of the AGM is to provide a set of online tools that will help physicians use genomic information in practice.

Topol told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week that since the Life Tech grant was awarded, "we've done a lot of work to think through exactly what our strategy is going to be."

The aim, he said, is to create "a remote learning tool, a so-called genomic medicine university, for credentialing, and creating something that is really extraordinary." He said the program will be "highly interactive" and will include "the latest advances in the science of learning, and even gaming, to get people who are uninitiated, but interested, credentialed at a couple of different levels."

Topol said that the AGM board is currently "mapping out the curriculum" and that it plans to "get something in place in the latter part of the year that will be transformative."

In addition to Topol, who serves as chair, AGM board members include:

• Bradley Patay, division head of internal medicine at Scripps Health, who serves as vice-chair;
• Russ Altman, chair of bioengineering and professor of genetics and medicine at Stanford University;
• Peter Gregersen, director of the Robert S. Boas Center for Genomics and Human Genetics;
• Hakon Hakonarson, director of the Center for Applied Genomics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia;
• Stephen Hauser, chairman of neurology at the University of San Francisco;
• Linh Hoang, director of corporate development in personalized medicine at Life Technologies;
• Mark McCarthy, group head of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford; Dietrich Stephan, CEO of the Ignite Institute;
• Jeff Trent, president and scientific director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute; and
• Daniel Von Hoff, director of the clinical translational research division at TGen.

Topol noted that the educational mission for the program is "daunting," but expressed hope that physicians will be eager to gain knowledge about molecular medicine. As an example, he pointed to the fact that out of 400 or so attendees at the conference, there were "a couple hundred physicians, so that at least shows interest."

In addition, Topol noted, "we may benefit from the fact that consumers are getting educated pretty fast about their own genomic results, and that may add to the pressure of physicians to learn and get at least beyond where their patients are."

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