Veteran genomics researcher Steve Scherer has been named the new director of the University of Toronto's McLaughlin Centre, which focuses on genomic medicine. Scherer says the timing couldn't be better to expand genomics-based medicine. "I took this position because it's the right time professionally and the right time for the field of genomics medicine to provide an impact," says Scherer, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. "The demand for leadership in an organization that is going to help pull together all the different activities in Toronto is here. There is also a need for lots of mechanisms to facilitate lines of communication between researchers and the clinical, and this is where McLaughlin is going to have a huge impact."
Established in 2000 with a donation of $50 million from the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation, the McLaughlin Centre focuses on furthering genomic medicine by supporting and funding projects at the University of Toronto, its teaching hospitals and research institutes, as well as the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, the Centre for Applied Genomics, and the Ontario Genomics Institute.
First on the agenda is the business of expanding the educational system to help speed up development of genomic-based medicine. "We're going to try and increase the content of the genetics and genomics curriculum in the undergraduate medical education program. We think that this is where it needs to start, but it also has to happen in the nursing and genetic counseling schools and, most importantly, at the medical school itself," Scherer says. "Instituting change in established programs is going to be a real issue, but part of McLaughlin is to facilitate education and work with the med school to achieve this."
Also on his to-do list is developing programs to move basic discovery into translational applications, which the center will tackle through a grant program of accelerator funds. "I think genomic medicine is going to be different in that there has to be much more interaction between the physicians and healthcare professional and families," he says. "People always ask, 'When is genomic medicine going to be here?' — and, in our experience, it actually is here."